2 Puerto Rico fishermen caught fishing illegally in managed fishing area off Mayaguez, Puerto Rico

San Juan, Puerto Rico — The Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans interdicted two Puerto Rico fishermen Thursday and seized their catch after they were found to be fishing illegally inside “Abrir La Sierra Bank,” 14 nautical miles southeast of Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

During a separate incident Thursday, the crew of the Raymond Evans also seized five illegal fishing pots that had been deployed in Tourmaline Bank, approximately eight nautical miles from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.

These successful living marine resources enforcement actions were the result of a combined operation between the Coast Guard, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER), targeting illegal fishing activities in the managed fishing areas west of Mayaguez inside the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. Thursday the crew of a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen spotted the two fishermen aboard a 21-foot fishing vessel inside the Tourmaline Bank Managed Area. Watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector San Juan proceeded to divert the Raymond Evans to intercept the fishing vessel. Upon arriving on scene, the crew of the Raymond Evans confirmed that the fisherman had illegally caught 10 Red Snapper, one Red Grouper and a Red Hind Grouper. NOAA enforcement personnel aboard DNER vessels also arrived on scene and issued a fisheries violation to the fishermen. The crew of the Raymond Evans transferred custody of the evidence to NOAA enforcement personnel and was taken to the DNER Fisheries Laboratory for species identification.

“The men were fishing for protected fish in an area that was closed for the season,” said Ensign Andrew Connell, Coast Guard Sector San Juan Living Marine Resources officer. “Illegal fishing activities present a threat to the species of fish and other protected marine life that requires sufficient time for their populations to recover during the off season.”

The fishing grounds of “Abrir La Sierra,” Tourmaline Bank, and “Bajo de Sico” are closed to fishing activities from 1 December to 28 February each year. The use of fishing pots inside these areas is also illegal due to the damage the pots cause to the protected reefs and the marine life.

NOAA Special Agents are conducting an investigation into the use of the illegal fishing pots.

Coast Guard Cutter Raymond Evans is a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Key West, Fla.

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