Contact: Chris Smith


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has charged the owner
and the operator of a Texas shrimp trawler with violating sea turtle protection laws, the agency announced today.

A NOAA Protected Resources Enforcement Team (PRET) boarded the fishing vessel TORTUGA VIEJO on April 7 off of Padre Island, Texas to find the escape openings on all four of the trawler's turtle excluder devices (TEDs) sewn shut. This prevented the escape of any sea turtles that may have become entrapped in its nets.

NOAA has assessed a civil penalty of $4,000 against Manuel Gallardo-Castillo, the trawler's operator, and a $4,000 penalty against Chico Boy, Inc., the trawler's owner. Agency attorneys said. Gallardo-Castillo and Chico Boy, Inc. have until 30 days from receipt of our notice to either pay the penalty, seek a modified assessment, or request a hearing before an administrative law judge to deny or contest the charges and the penalties assessed.

In addition, the PRET seized the 2,116 pounds of shrimp aboard the trawler and sold them for $10,124.70. NOAA has filed to seek the forfeiture of the proceeds from the seized shrimp. Anyone who has a claim to the proceeds from the seized catch has until May 11, 1999 to file their claim with NOAA attorneys.

NOAA Fisheries Southeast enforcement chief, Eugene F. Proulx, said the protected resources enforcement team and agency gear specialists routinely board shrimp trawlers to assist shrimpers in fine tuning the position of their TEDs in nets. He said flagrant violations of this nature are unusual.

"It's very disappointing to discover TED escape openings sewn shut after years of conducting TED seminars and helping shrimpers conduct business and save sea turtles at the same time," said Proulx. "Our Protected Resource Enforcement Team will continue to be active along the Texas and Louisiana coastline through the fall."

All six species of sea turtles found in U.S. waters are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, and leatherback sea turtles are listed as endangered under the ESA. The loggerhead, green and olive ridley sea turtles are listed as threatened, except for breeding populations of green sea turtles in Florida and on the Pacific coast of Mexico, and breeding populations of olive ridley sea turtles on the Pacific coast of Mexico, which are listed as endangered.

NOAA Fisheries urges citizens to report fishery violations during weekly business hours of 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Eastern, to its Southeast Region Law Enforcement Division at (727) 570-5344, or after hours and weekends at its National Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964.

This and other Southeast Regional news releases and fishery bulletins are available on the region's Internet home page: or NOAA's Internet home page,

NOAA Fisheries is an agency of the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency conducts scientific research and provides services and products to support fisheries management, fisheries development, trade and industry assistance, enforcement, and protected species and habitat conservation programs.