Coast Guard files civil penalty against alleged illegal charter operator

13th Coast Guard District NewsASTORIA, Ore. — Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, located in Warrenton, Ore., has filed a Class I Civil Penalty against a man for allegedly operating a recreational vessel for commercial purposes without proper state or Coast Guard issued commercial credentials.

Coast Guard Sector Columbia River’s Marine Safety Unit, located in Portland, Ore., took action after learning about an illegal charter operation from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

WDFW undercover officers responded to an advertisement for $50 salmon fishing trips aboard the 32-foot recreational vessel Sherry Ann out of Chinook, Wash., in August 2011. The vessel’s owner/operator accepted payment from the officers for a day of fishing.

Sherry Ann’s owner/operator was arrested by WDFW and charged for operating without a WDFW issued limited entry commercial charter license and his vessel and fishing gear were seized for state forfeiture proceedings. Under state law, chartering without a license is a gross misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland initially issued a notice of violation to the owner/operator for operating an uninspected passenger vessel without a Coast Guard issued master’s license. If the owner/operator is found guilty of the recently filed Class I Civil Penalty, he faces up to $27,500 in fines.

“Many state and federal regulations associated with vessel operators taking passengers for hire are intended to protect the public’s safety,” said WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci. “We take this collaborative agency role very seriously.”

“Legal charter operators and their vessels receive more scrutiny and oversight than everyday recreational fishermen,” said Chief Warrant Officer Howard McCarthy, investigating officer for Coast Guard MSU. “Charter operators require additional inspections and licenses. Illegal operators not only pose a safety hazard to those aboard their vessels and the vessels around them, they cheat the system and the legal charter businesses with whom they compete.”

The Coast Guard and WDFW will continue to aggressively enforce maritime and fishery regulations and prosecute violators to the fullest extent of the law.

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