NOAA 2004-R137
Contact: Chris Smith

NOAA News Releases 2004
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Owner/Operator Falsified Trip Reports and Filed False Documents

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation (GCEL) announced a settlement agreement with Edward R. Ahearn III, owner and operator of the fishing vessel Lady Caroline II, for violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Also named in the settlement was crewmember Joshua Servis. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The settlement is the result of an in-depth, two-year investigation conducted by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) Office for Law Enforcement (OLE). Following the investigation Ahearn admitted to falsifying several fishing vessel trip reports and filing false documents in response to a federal subpoena. NOAA Fisheries requires federally permitted vessels to submit accurate fishing vessel trip reports.

As part of the settlement Ahearn agreed to pay a compromise civil penalty of $100,000, forfeit a previously seized amount of $5,946, forfeit 20 Monkfish days at sea in the 2004 fishing season and eliminate one vessel from his fleet. In addition, the Lady Caroline II is required to cease any fishing operations in March and November of 2005 and 2006. Ahearn will also not be able to increase the size of his fishing fleet for five years. During the same time period Servis will be required to cease fishing.

According to the investigation Ahearn used the FV Lady Caroline II to land monkfish on four separate dates and then hid the fish with the assistance of the Point Pleasant Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative. Ahearn and the Point Pleasant Fisherman’s Dock Cooperative (co-op) agreed to complete two separate fish invoices for the monkfish. The co-op utilized the name of another vessel owned by Ahearn to separate the fish and issue a second fish ticket on those dates. The Point Pleasant Fishermen’s Dock Cooperative has previously admitted to filing false reports.

A second New Jersey business owner, at the direction of Ahearn, knowingly provided falsified documents that were eventually presented to NOAA’s GCEL information and made several false statements to NOAA Fisheries OLE Special Agents during interviews. Additionally, the business owner knowingly provided the falsified information and made several false statements to OLE special agents.

Under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the falsification of federal fishing vessel trip reports and filing false documents in response to a federal subpoena can carry a civil penalty of up to $120,000. Under federal statute, criminal penalties for making a false statement, filing false documents or providing false documents in return of a federal subpoena can carry up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The NOAA Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement field office in Wall, N.J. worked in conjunction with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife - Northern Marine Division and Northeast Division of NOAA General Counsel throughout this investigation.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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