After more than three months behind bars, U.S. longline fishing captain Michael Foy will be released on bail in the British Virgin Islands while awaiting trial on charges of illegal fishing and illegally entering Tortola’s port, according to his family and lawyers.
“Today was his 10th court date for an alleged illegal immigration violation,” brother Joe Foy said late Friday. “There’s all kinds of paperwork to be done, but he will be out of there (Tortola jail) on Monday.”
The captain’s movements are restricted, and he is staying with a Tortola resident who authorities have accepted as Foy’s sponsor during his bonded release, said Joe Foy.
A trial is tentatively scheduled for next week – probably another remote video hearing, as BVI is under a continuing partial lockdown to control the spread of covid-19, he said. Earlier court dates have been repeatedly cancelled or postponed.
Foy, 60, of Manahawkin, N.J., was jailed June 11, initially charged with illegal entry in violation of the island’s covid-19 precautions, then hit with a charge of illegal fishing, although he had been fishing south of his home port in Puerto Rico far away from BVI waters.
Fishing far offshore for tuna and swordfish, Foy has worked with an Indonesian crew for some years; to comply with regulations for clearing U.S. customs they had been regularly calling at Road Town in Tortola to stamp passports before returning to Puerto Rico.
Foy’s family says his vessel Rebel Lady was laid to offshore June 8, waiting for clearance to enter the port of Road Town as he had done many times before, when he and his crew were approached by BVI authorities and instructed to follow their boat in.
Under the impression that he was getting customs clearance, Foy to his surprise was taken into custody by officers at the dock and the Rebel Lady impounded.
Initially charged with illegal entry, Foy a few days later was also charged with not arriving at an “authorized port,” and with operating an unlicensed or unregistered fishing vessel – a move that suddenly jacked up potential penalties to $511,000.
For Foy’s defense, lawyers obtained from NMFS vessel monitoring system records and other data that the Rebel Lady is required to carry to comply with U.S. regulations for pelagic longline fisheries. That data proves the crew were nowhere near BVI territorial waters when fishing, his family says.
After the BVI High Court granted bail, the family was busy arranging to meet the requirements, which Joe Foy said Friday would take a couple of days to complete.
“Plus, they have his boat on the dry” in storage, he added. Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of the vessel.
The Rebel Lady’s crew meanwhile has been confined to a Tortola hotel. Joe Foy said their situation is unclear, but it appears BVI authorities may deport them.