Coast Guard, National Marine Fisheries Service task force helps stop illegal scallop harvest

FORT MACON, N.C. - A boarding team member from the US Coast Guard Cutter Elm stands next to an illegal catch of scallops aboard a fishing vessel. The Elm is a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in Fort Macon. US Coast Guard photo by Elm Crewmember.

A boarding team member from the US Coast Guard Cutter Elm stands next to an illegal catch of scallops aboard a fishing vessel.

PORTSMOUTH, Va. – The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Elm intercepted and boarded a fishing vessel found with scallop dredging gear deployed while in a closure area east of New Jersey, Wednesday.

The crew of the Elm, homeported in Fort Macon, N.C., was conducting joint operations with the National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce domestic fisheries regulations within closure areas.

Violations of closure areas have serious impacts on the viability of the fishing industry and achievement of sustainment goals. Rotational access and closure areas are designated to maximize scallop catch yields by protecting beds of juvenile scallops.

The Coast Guard issued the master of the vessel a citation for dredging for scallops in a closed area and ordered the crew to cease fishing. The vessel was met by Coast Guard and National Marine Fisheries Service agents upon returning to port in New Bedford, Mass.

“Fishing in a closed area not only causes significant damage to the scallop resource, but it also gives an unfair advantage to fishers who cheat over the scallop fishermen who played by the rules and stayed out of this area,” said Capt. Peter DeCola, chief of law enforcement in the Coast Guard’s 1st District. “From this one trip alone, we estimate that this vessel would have increased profits by tens of thousands of dollars more than fishermen who were fishing in authorized areas.”

In addition to its other missions, the Coast Guard routinely works with the National Marine Fisheries Service to enforce regulations aimed at ensuring the continued success of this resource and the viability of the legitimate fishing operations that depend on them. The National Marine Fisheries Service is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“These are difficult times for commercial fishermen, with both economic and resource management pressures,” said Cmdr. John Kennedy, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Elm. “The Coast Guard is committed to ensuring a level, competitive playing field among fishermen on the fishing grounds. We also strive to provide an effective and professional at-sea enforcement presence to implement fisheries management decisions reached by NOAA and the respective Fisheries Management Councils.”

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