Coast Guard cites commercial fisherman for fishing in U.S. EEZ without permits

BOSTON — The U.S. Coast Guard in cooperation with the Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) conducted a boarding of a commercial fishing vessel in Nantucket, Mass., Aug. 25, 2010, and found the vessel did not have a required permit.

The vessel was returning from a fishing trip for Atlantic Sea Scallops and the master of the vessel admitted that he did not have a federal fisheries permit for Atlantic Sea Scallops issued to the vessel.

The vessel was issued two violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act for the following: fishing for Atlantic Sea Scallops in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) without a federal fisheries permit for Atlantic Sea Scallops and fishing for Atlantic Sea Scallops in the U.S. EEZ without an operational Vessel Monitoring Service (VMS) unit. The fishing vessel was prohibited from fishing inside the U.S. EEZ until the violations are corrected.

The master produced a document purporting to provide authorization from the Passamaquoddy Tribe for the vessel to fish in the federal EEZ. This document was collected by MA MEP for further transfer to NMFS.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued the following broadcast via VMS and Coast Guard radio broadcasts: “The National Marine Fisheries Service is in discussion with the Passamaquoddy Tribe, to better understand the basis for the tribe’s claim to fishing rights. However, the Magnuson-Stevens Act and all Federal regulations and laws continue to apply at this time to all fishers in the EEZ, including Passamaquoddy tribal members. Any vessel fishing or possessing federally regulated species in or from the EEZ must hold a valid federal permit, and any person purchasing, possessing, or receiving for a commercial purpose any federally regulated species from the vessels fishing in the EEZ must also be federally permitted. All federally permitted vessels and dealers must comply with regulatory requirements. If you have any questions about this announcement, please contact the Sustainable Fisheries Division at (978) 281-9315.”

“The Coast Guard’s primary goal with respect to living marine resources is to protect the resource and maintain a level playing field amongst fishermen,” said Capt. Peter DeCola, the First District chief of maritime law enforcement. “Since the federal fisheries are fully utilized under the current management scheme, unpermitted entrants pose a significant danger to fish stocks and put fishermen abiding by the rules at a serious disadvantage.”

The boat and master’s names are being withheld pending the ongoing investigation.

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