In early November, NMFS released its final report on a striped bass poaching ring in North Carolina that’s taken the better part of a decade to investigate.
The investigation began as a result of the U.S. Coast Guard boarding the F/V Lady Samaira in February 2010, based on a complaint that multiple vessels were fishing striped bass illegally, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The fishermen were landing the bass in federal waters, where harvesting striped bass is illegal, and reporting the catches were made legally in state waters.
Thirty co-conspirators were part of the alleged illicit activity, but only 12 were charged in the case. Arrests and charges were made over the past few years. According to investigators, the 12 fishermen charged were prosecuted for illegally harvesting 31,306 pounds of Atlantic striped bass in 2009 and 102,296 pounds in 2010. The annual trawl quota for the state is only 160,160 pounds.
According to NMFS, two special agents from its Office of Law Enforcement spent more than 15,000 hours investigating the Lacey Act violations.
In the sentencing of the 12 subjects involved, four boats were forfeited (the U.S. Attorney’s Office initially sought forfeiture of seven boats). In total, the subjects were ordered to pay $1.23 million in restitution, prohibited from commercial fishing for a total of 38.5 years (three years on average) and ordered to complete 850 hours of community service. Three of the charged fishermen were sentenced to home confinement for six months.