A Florida fisherman was fined by an administrative law judge Tuesday, for illegal fishing within a secured area 120 miles south of Panama City, Fla.
The violation occurred Dec. 17, 2002, when the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Stingray, homeported in Mobile, Ala., stopped and boarded the fishing vessel, The Shadow, for allegedly illegally fishing within the Madison-Swanson closed area.
Jerry Eugene Key, operator of The Shadow, set approximately 2.5 miles of longline gear to harvest reef fish within the closed area. Any person found fishing for any species of fish in this area, other than highly migratory species, is in violation of the Reef Fish Management Plan, as authorized in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and regulations promulgated to implement the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery Management Plan.
Special agents from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries
) - Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) conducted the investigation into the alleged illegal fishing activities based upon the findings during the Coast Guard boarding.
“Our close working relationship with the Coast Guard enables us to maximize our enforcement efforts, and ensure that those who fish illegally aren’t rewarded for their efforts,” stated Special Agent Allan Coker, NOAA Fisheries OLE - Southeast Division.
The case was heard before Administrative Law Judge Parlen L. McKenna, in Panama City. The owner, Greg Abrams, was assessed a fine of $80,000, a 180-day sanction on all federal fisheries permits issued to his fishing vessel was imposed, and he is required to install vessel monitoring systems aboard his entire fishing fleet.
Fisheries Enforcement Chief for the Eighth Coast Guard District, Lt. Cmdr. John Sherlock, stated, “This should be a clear signal to the commercial and recreational fishing industries that illegal fishing within closed fishing areas will be aggressively pursued by Coast Guard and NOAA-Fisheries.”