National Fisherman


Two Santa Barbara brothers accused of violating federal laws related to a no-fishing zone off San Miguel Island beat the charges in late August when a federal judge determined that the government presented insufficient evidence to prove the crime. The decision highlighted deficiencies in the vessel monitoring system (VMS) used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to watch fishing boats and enforce the rules surrounding marine protected areas (MPAs), prompting an ongoing review of the system with changes likely on the way.
 
For longtime fishermen Jason and Shane Robinson, the decision saved them from paying more than $17,000 in fines, which is a relatively low amount compared to other penalties, in part because they were only charged with idling in an MPA too long, not for fishing there, which can bring fines of up to $140,000. But the case also revealed what they believe is an unfair culture of guilty until proved innocent when it comes to commercial fishing laws. “They threaten you based on the fact that it costs more to fight these than to accept a settlement,” said Jason. “That’s what they told me, and that’s how they did it. In my mind, this is their ATM machine. … It feels like extortion.”
 
The brothers were only able to fight the charges, which date back to a fishing trip they took on May 17, 2010, because attorney Rusty Brace of the Santa Barbara firm Hollister & Brace took on the case pro bono. Had he been tallying his time on this complicated matter, which he says the feds fought tooth-and-nail despite no hard evidence, the bill would have far exceeded the fines, costing perhaps as much as $80,000 when all was said and done.
 
Read the full story at Santa Barbara Independent>>

Inside the Industry

NOAA recently published a proposed rule that would implement a traceability plan to help combat IUU fishing. The program would seek to trace the origins of imported seafood by setting up reporting and filing procedures for products entering the U.S.

The traceability program would collect data on harvest, landing, and chain of custody of fish and fish products that have been identified as particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing and fraud.

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The following was released by the Maine Department of Marine Resources on Jan. 22:

The Maine Department of Marine Resources announced an emergency regulation that will support the continued rebuilding effort in Maine’s scallop fishery. The rule, effective January 23, 2016, will close the Muscle Ridge Area near South Thomaston and the Western Penobscot Bay Area.

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