BOSTON — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently resolved two civil penalty cases with two separate fishing vessel owners who violated the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act when their crews were found fishing in closed areas.
There are five closed fishing areas in New England that cover about 8,000 square miles of protected waters. Closed areas aim to protect important fish habitats and spawning places for cod, haddock, scallops, and several other species.
Following up on a referral from the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Vessel Monitoring program, a Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod HC-144 crew sighted the fishing vessel Warrior, homeported in New Bedford, Mass., on March 21, 2014 fishing for scallops within Closed Area II Essential Fish Habitat, which is about 120 miles east of Cape Cod, Mass.
On April 30, 2013 the fishing vessel Crystal Girl B, a vessel homeported in Cape May, N.J. was also detected fishing for scallops inside Closed Area I, an area about 30 miles southeast of Cape Cod, Mass., by a crew aboard the Coast Guard cutter Tybee.
The Warrior owner paid a civil penalty of $39,360 on April 1, 2016 for fishing in a closed area and deficiencies with its vessel monitoring system and the Crystal Girl B owner agreed to pay $40,750 on March 18, 2016 for closed area violations, including fishing in a closed area.
"Illegally fishing in closed areas represents a serious risk to our fisheries as well as the fishermen who rely on fishing to make a living," said Capt. Brian Fiedler, chief of law enforcement in the Coast Guard's 1st District. "When fishermen illegally fish in areas that are closed to scallop fishing, as in these two cases, they can damage essential spawning grounds and fish habitat, and gain an unfair advantage over those who respect the boundaries of closed areas."
NOAA is responsible for regulating and prosecuting violations and the Coast Guard is the primary agency to enforce the regulations at sea.
"The Warrior case is the first significant case detected by our newest aircraft, the HC-144," said Fiedler.
The HC-144 Ocean Sentry is the Coast Guard's Medium Range Surveillance Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The aircraft is particularly effective at locating targets in a large search area and vectoring prosecution assets to the targets.