NOAA SERO 99-51
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Chris Smith
9/7/99

NOAA CHARGES LOUISIANA SEAFOOD DEALER AND FISHERMAN WITH SIGNIFICANT SHARK FISHERY VIOLATIONS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has charged a Venice, La., seafood dealer and a fisherman with violating shark fishery regulations by retaining, selling and purchasing shark caught when the fishery was closed, along with additional violations, the agency announced today.

Notices of Violation and Assessment and Notices of Permit Sanctions were issued against Mark Vogel, a vessel captain from Kenner, La., and Sharkco Seafood International, Inc., a seafood dealer in Venice, La., for violating closure, reporting, and trip limits in the shark fishery in 1996 and 1997. Vogel was assessed a civil penalty of $130,000 and an 11 month permit sanction. Sharkco Seafood International was assessed a civil penalty of $250,000 and a six month permit sanction.

"These charges send a strong message to the fishing community that NOAA will investigate and prosecute these and other fishery violations. Many shark populations are overfished. We must protect this national resource and ensure that fishing quotas are observed for those who follow the rules," said Senior Enforcement Attorney Karen Antrim Raine of NOAA's Office of General Counsel, who is prosecuting the case.

Vogel and Sharkco Seafood International have 30 days from the date they receive the notices to either pay the penalty, seek to have the assessment modified, or request a hearing before an administrative law judge to deny or contest all or any part of the violations charged and the penalties assessed. Additionally, the agency is seeking forfeiture of proceeds in the amount of $8,759.37 from the sale of 10,937 pounds of blacktip shark and 303 pounds of fins that were seized from Sharkco Seafood International in April 1997 in connection with the charges. Claimants to the proceeds from the seized catch have until Sept. 23, 1999, to file a claim and bond or a motion for stay.

The case began when federally-deputized Louisiana officers inspected Sharkco Seafood International during a federal shark closure and found over 10,000 pounds of shark, which were determined to have come from the fishing vessel FLY BOY (subsequently renamed NIGHT MOVES), a federally permitted vessel. Subsequent investigation by NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Special Agent Andrew Emerson resulted in charges that, during federal shark closures in September - December 1996, and in April 1997, Vogel unlawfully retained or sold or attempted to sell shark and that Sharkco Seafood International unlawfully purchased or attempted to purchase the shark, and they falsified or failed to make required reports.

Additional charges stemming from the investigation are that on or about Feb. 2, 1997, during the open shark season, Vogel landed or possessed shark in excess of the 4000 pound trip limit, which Sharkco Seafood International subsequently possessed, had custody or control of, or purchased and did not make the proper reports.

NOAA Fisheries urges citizens to report fishery violations during weekly business hours of 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 a.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, the Council's web site: http://www.gulfcouncil.org/index.html and NOAA's media site: 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.