A Coast Guard H-60 helicopter sighted a trawler allegedly
fishing for groundfish in the Rockfish Conservation Area on February 6.
A National Oceanographic Atmospheric Agency Fisheries Special Agent aboard the helicopter spotted the fishing vessel Astoria, Ore.-based Sara Frances using bottom trawl gear in this conservation area. Beginning January 1 of this year, fishing for groundfish in this area with bottom trawl gear is prohibited.
The Coast Guard pilot contacted the vessel captain and confirmed its position inside the restricted zone. With this information, NOAA Fisheries special agents met the 67-foot fishing vessel when it returned to Warrenton, Ore. Friday. The agents seized approximately 20,000 lbs. of groundfish from the Sara Frances.
This was one of the first nighttime surveillance flights conducted by the Coast Guard since the special Rockfish Conservation Area was established. This is also the first illegal incursion into this area recorded since the new regulations went into effect.
“NOAA Fisheries and the Coast Guard are very serious about protecting, conserving and recovering overfished species of west coast groundfish. Detecting unlawful fishing in these Rockfish Conservation areas is our highest priority,” says Vicki Nomura, Special Agent in Charge of the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Office for Law Enforcement.
Cmdr. Fred Myer, the Chief of the Thirteenth Coast Guard District’s Office of Law Enforcement adds, “Although the Coast Guard has a clear mandate to fully accomplish our homeland security mission tasking, we will continue to strive to meet our objectives for living marine resource enforcement.”
NOAA is continuing its investigation of the Rockfish Conservation incident yesterday.