FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Smith
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has charged the owner and the operator of a Texas shrimp trawler with violating sea turtle protection laws, the agency announced today.
On April 27, 1999 a NOAA Protected Resources Enforcement Team boarded the fishing vessel MISS POLLY BUD, homeported in Houston, off of Mustang Island, near Port Aransas, Texas. The enforcement agents found one shrimp trawl net without a turtle excluder device (TED) installed and an endangered Kemp's ridley sea turtle in a net with a TED that did not meet minimum turtle escape requirements. The turtle was alive and was successfully returned to the Gulf of Mexico.
NOAA has assessed a total civil penalty of $5,000 against both Ricky Martinez, the trawler's operator, and Marian J. Chapman, the trawler's owner, for the TED violations and for taking a sea turtle. Agency attorneys said Martinez and Chapman have until 30 days from receipt of the 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.
"I'm very disturbed with the frequency of TED violations discovered by the Protected Resources Enforcement Team in recent weeks," said Andrew Kemmerer, director of NOAA Fisheries' Southeast region. "While the vast majority of shrimpers continue to follow the rules to protect sea turtles, we will use every means at our disposal to apprehend and punish those who flagrantly violate the law."
Kemmerer said that enforcement and prosecution of violations of turtle protection regulations will continue as violations are detected by daily scheduled patrols.
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.
Concerned citizens may 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: http://caldera.sero.nmfs.gov or NOAA's Internet home page, http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov.
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.