Coast Guard crews discover hidden compartment on fishing vessel, issue violations

Coast Guard District 1 NewsBOSTON — U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bainbridge Island crewmembers issued two violations to the fishing vessel Dinah Jane, homeported in New Bedford, Mass., during a routine boarding Friday, six miles south of Block Island, R.I.

During the at-sea boarding, Bainbridge Island boarding teams discovered a hidden compartment and issued two violations to the vessel’s master: one for the hidden compartment and one for impeding a Coast Guard boarding. The Coast Guard is continuing to investigating the hidden compartment. The Dinah Jane was fishing for scallops.

With the seasonal opening of scallop access areas, the Coast Guard has concentrated on ensuring compliance with trip catch limits. These efforts have included routine inspections for hidden compartments and scallop overages.

This is the second hidden compartment discovered on board a New Bedford-based scallop vessel within the last few months. On Aug. 7, the Villa Nova Do Corvo II was cited for retention of an egg-bearing female American Lobster in addition to operating with a hidden compartment.

“Installing a hidden compartment on any vessel is a violation of U.S. law,” stated Rear Adm. Daniel Neptun, commander, 1st Coast Guard District. “Hidden compartments have a history going back to the days of prohibition; probably before. Fishing, recreational, and other commercial vessels have been used to smuggle booze, drugs, illegal migrants and other prohibited goods, so I am pleased that the Coast Guard Cutter Bainbridge Island was successful in detecting this compartment.”

“It appeared that this fishing vessel may have been altered, potentially to over harvest the scallop resource,” Rear Adm. Neptun continued. “We estimate this compartment can conceal up to 2,750 pounds of scallops. During the course of repeated, limited access, individual fishing quota trips this year, this vessel could have concealed an additional 300,000 pounds of fresh scallops, with commensurate market value of $3 million. In addition to inflicting significant pressure on the scallop resource, this vessel, configured with a hidden compartment, could have given its owner an unfair, competitive advantage over the vast majority of participants in this fishery who are following the rules.”

The Coast Guard directed the vessel to remain at the New Bedford state pier until this compartment is no longer concealed and refrain from operating with concealed holds. Willful and knowing violation of this Captain of the Port Order is a Class D Felony, punishable by up to six years in prison (18 USC § 3581) or fines of no more than $250,000 for an individual, or $500,000 for an organization (18 USC § 3571).

The Bainbridge Island is a 110-foot Island Class Patrol Boat homeported in Sandy Hook, N.J.

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