NOAA 99-R125
Contact: Gordon Helm


Joseph H. Carter Inc. Staff Faces $1.72 Million Penalty, Dealer Permit Suspension

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has charged a Fulton Fish Market retail dealer with 172 counts of violations that undermine rules designed to protect and conserve New England groundfish stocks. Joseph H. Carter Inc. allegedly concealed or falsified the purchase of hundreds of thousands of pounds of fish from at least 23 fishing vessels over a year-long period.

NOAA has assessed civil fines totaling $1.72 million to Joseph H. Carter Inc.; Vincent J. Tatick, president of the company; Warren D. Kremin, the company's vice president; and Louis A. Venuto, the company's bookkeeper, and is seeking suspension of Carter's dealer permit for a five-year period. The respondents have 30 days from service of the Notice of Violation and Assessment and Notice of Permit Sanction to respond to the charges.

"This is a significant case involving large-scale reporting violations by a Fulton Fish Market dealer who handles millions of pounds of federally regulated seafood from a number of different states each year," said Mitch MacDonald, NOAA enforcement attorney. "NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service relies on data submitted by dealers such as Carter to determine when quotas are reached. Failure to report landings on such a large scale undermines NOAA Fisheries' ability to effectively enforce and manage the nation's marine resources."

The case developed over a two-year period and led NOAA Fisheries enforcement agents from the New England docks to the fish market.

"Fishermen in New England are fishing under severe restrictions to reduce overfishing," said Andy Rosenberg, NOAA Fisheries deputy director. "It's important to stop illegal activities like these that undermine their hard work."

The facts of the case are:

-On no fewer than 172 occasions in 1996 and 1997, Carter allegedly either completely failed to submit required dealer reports concerning purchases of seafood from federally-permitted fishing vessels from Massachusetts and New York, or falsely reported those purchases. In so doing, Carter also facilitated scores of vessel violations.

-Investigators uncovered violations on a total of 57 percent of Carter's wholesale purchases during the twelve-month investigation. Those purchases involved approximately 1,248,971 pounds of regulated fish species, including squid, mackerel, butterfish, summer flounder, cod, whiting and scup. The 172 charges were the result of the investigation of these purchases.

- The investigation also revealed that at least 275 purchases, or 31 percent of the reporting violations, comprised approximately 100,935 pounds of summer flounder. This represents approximately 12 percent of the quota for the entire state of New York for the 1996 fishing year. Carter also purchased fish on numerous occasions that were caught outside federal fishery rules.

-A total of 111 of the non-reported purchases involved the fishing vessel
St. Mary of Gloucester, Mass. The F/V St. Mary was charged with committing more than 98 violations centering around illegal retention of Northeast multispecies and the owner/operator's attempts to conceal the illegal trips through false reporting. The owner/operator later settled with the agency for a civil penalty of $42,800, loss of ownership of the vessel, and a lifetime ban from all commercial fishing.

-A total of 86 of the non-reported purchases allegedly involved the fishing vessel Morning Star, also of Gloucester, Mass. The F/V Morning Star has been charged with committing 48 violations and assessed a $125,000 civil penalty and a 280-day permit sanction.

-Carter allegedly submitted false reports on 11 occasions in collusion with three fishing vessels operating out of New York state ports. It appears that the false reports were submitted for the purpose of covering up the vessels' illegal retention of summer flounder in excess of possession limits.

- Carter's alleged failures to report also facilitated other vessels' retention of illegally retained multispecies stocks or summer flounder.