Michael Foy, the U.S. longline captain jailed in the British Virgin Islands since June 11, has seen his trial postponed on Tortola until Oct. 1 as the island goes through another round of covid-19 partial shutdowns, according to Foy’s family.

Foy, 60, of Manahawkin, N.J., was initially charged with illegal entry in violation of the island’s covid-19 precautions, then with a charge of illegal fishing, although he had been fishing south of Puerto Rico.

Foy and his local attorney arrived in court as scheduled Sept. 9 only to be told the hearing was rescheduled, according to his brother Joe Foy.

Responding to urgent requests from his lawyers in Tortola and the U.S., the National Marine Fisheries Service produced 27 pages of documentation from Foy’s vessel monitoring system, with data showing he fished far from BVI waters. They have that evidence in hand for when they do get a court hearing, according to Joe Foy.

Michael Foy’s vessel Rebel Lady was laid to offshore June 8, waiting for customs clearance to enter the port of Road Town as he had done many times before, but Foy was arrested after BVI authorities instructed him to follow a customs vessel into the harbor.

A few days later Foy was also charged with not arriving at an “authorized port,” and with operating an unlicensed or unregistered fishing vessel – a move that increased potential penalties to $511,000 and the loss of his vessel, now impounded in dry storage.

“We are in the third month of Mike's imprisonment and per an earlier update, the Indonesian crew were removed from the Rebel Lady and locked up in a hotel,” Joe Foy wrote in a Sept. 9 email to supporters. “Last week Tortola Immigration stopped feeding the men.”

Michael Foy’s port agent “Tommy Forte got the word in Puerto Rico and was able to arrange for food through Attorney Edwards and a trading vessel that departed from San Juan to Road Town, Tortola over the weekend,” Joe Foy wrote.

“Food sent to Mike from Puerto Rico is rifled through by the guards leaving about half the remaining goods reaching Mike,” he added.

Foy’s supporters and the American Sword and Tuna Harvesters industry group are pressing the U.S. State Department to intercede in the case.

Meanwhile, BVI authorities are enforcing a daily covid-19 curfew between 2 p.m. and 8 a.m. to tamp down a surge in virus cases. On Sept. 4 officers arrested two fishermen, citizens of Bahamas and Grenada, charging them with illegal entry after they docked in Road Town.

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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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