Commercial Fisherman Pleads Guilty to Poaching Striped Bass

The United States Attorney’s Office announced 71-year-old James Ralph Craddock’s guilty plea on Monday, November 28. Craddock’s federal charges included the illegal harvest and sale of the bass from federal waters off the coast of North Carolina in 2010.

Craddock is one of 13 commercial fishermen in North Carolina and Georgia charged in federal court in 2015 for their role in the illegal harvest and sale and false reporting of approximately 90,000 pounds of Atlantic striped bass from federal waters off the coast of North Carolina during 2009 and 2010. The average retail value of the illegally harvested striped bass is approximately $1.1 million.

A NOAA analysis found that during the North Carolina 20-day ocean trawl season in January/February of 2010 Craddock, then the Captain of the 74-foot commercial fishing vessel Capt Ralph, harvested over 12,000 pounds of Striped Bass. The investigation also revealed that Craddock harvested 1,750 pounds of the bass from the EEZ which had an estimated fair-market retail price of about $14,000.

“Fishing for striped bass in federal waters in violation of this longstanding and well-known moratorium has the potential to seriously impact this iconic species, to the detriment of the many honest commercial and recreational fishers who depend upon this fishery,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s plea agreement demonstrates the department’s commitment to pursuing those who fail to respect laws enacted to protect and conserve important marine resources.”

Craddock faces a max sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

US Attorney’s Office Press Release

39 on “Commercial Fisherman Pleads Guilty to Poaching Striped Bass

    1. John

      If they just give these guys a slap on the wrist they will keep doing it. Give them the maximum fine take their boats away and throw him in jail.

    2. poachman

      Harvest ! Kill ! Eradicate ! Nasty striped fish ! Make America great again !

      1. John N

        Poachman- I you are just joking. God have mercy on your soul if you are not!

      2. John N

        Sorry Poachman did not see your second post.

    3. Don Curry

      Take away his commercial fishing liscense and send a message to all commercial Captains that this is not going to be tolerated!

  1. John vilardo

    I believe any Captain who breaks the law and takes more than he deserves deserves the maximum sentence even more so because he should know better Recreation fishermen are allowed to fish and are satisfied with that greed got in his way now he should pay the price

  2. Bob Burger

    He’ll pay a small fine and go back to poaching just like all the other rat bastards that steal from the public resource. (And remember, we should be sympathetic to these hard working ‘Mericans!)

  3. Olivier

    take the captain license away from him. he knew the rules and still break it.

  4. Mark King

    Takeaway his Captains license for life. Confiscate his boat. Spend some time in jail. That will send a message.

  5. Bob

    No plea deal at all. Max penalty and revoke his license. Done deal.

    1. John N

      I agree Mark. They need to do that with all 13 guys from North Carolina. Hit them hard in the pocketbook and paste their names on all fishing sites and all newspapers throughout the Eastern Seaboard. It may send a message to the rest of the wanna be poachers. This will only work if the rest of the states assist the Federal prosecutors when they catch poachers and do not turn a blind eye from the problem.

  6. bunker

    we need to push for harsher punishments for those who break these laws…a slap on the wrist doesnt teach anyone anything. 2-6 months in jail and $5,000 is what he will probably get away with. Need to enforce harsher punishment, through and through

  7. Matthew Kocienski

    No food left for him to eat chain him to a pole in the center of town and let him starve to death

  8. Woody

    Typically the plea has been reached prior to sentencing, I’m sure it’s a slap on the wrist which is the whole reason it wasn’t published. Enough won’t be enough!!!

  9. Brian P

    Human beings are the only problem in the world.

    Hope he gets tem years

  10. Joshua Allan

    Max sentence. Max fine. Not only ta Capt. license and boat, but to never step foot on vessel again.

  11. scott

    could this be one of the reasons i can only catch one striped bass per day?
    every charter captain should be outraged by this person’s behavior.

  12. Anonymous

    I once plead out to misdemeanor poaching when I shot a deer after I had inadvertently wandered over a property line. It was a completely honest mistake, yet when I realized what I had done I faced the music. I didn’t profit from it, nor did I get to keep the antlers. The state required indonate the meat to the homeless after having it butchered at my cost. It cost me thousands of dollars in legal fees and fines and I lost my right to hunt for 2 years. I still have a misdemeanor on my record, and if I ever do it again I’ll face a couple months of jail time for a suspended sentence. I also had to repay the resource with $600 to cover the value of the animal. Again- this was all a very honest mistake and I was only a dozen yards or so over an invisible property line.

    But this rat-bastard poaching S.O.B didn’t make an honest mistake. He willfully and intentionally poached A MILLION DOLLARS worth of fish. Anything less than making him change careers by taking away his right to work the ocean is a travesty of justice.

  13. Bob

    Give them the full force of the law. Fine, loss of commercial and pleasure fishing licenses, and jail time would make him think about what they have done.

  14. Pete

    Confiscate his boat, revoke his license, fine him heavily and give him some jail time.
    We who abide by the law must set an EXAMPLE to these poachers. They are criminals.

  15. Bill Beym

    90,000. Lbs @ maybe 20lb’s ea bass ..4,500 stripers ?…take his boat sell it ! Lock them up !..throw away the key !..ashame !..

  16. scott doyle

    Enjoy this case folks, you will not see many like it in the future. The poachers have won. The highly skilled criminal Special Agent investigators who made this case are quickly becoming an endangered species. They are being replaced with uniform officers who are limited at best, and issue simple civil fish tickets. They could never make this case. The agents who worked this complex criminal case worked hundreds of hours on it. The number of NOAA special agents has been reduced from approximately 150 to under 60 over the last 5 years. The reason is simple, the commercial fishing industry doesn’t want NOAA special agents protecting our Marine living resources because they see the big picture, and have the ability to investigate complex schemes to harvest, process, sell and import illegal fish. So folks kiss the bass goodbye and then species by species they will all be poached into oblivion. So if you want to save your fish you must first save the NOAA Special Agent. It is all about the almighty dollar, fish are just money that swims in the ocean to the commercial fisherman. I believe the recreational fisherman view fish differently . Congrats to the case agents and attorneys, I know how hard you worked on this case.

  17. Greg W

    I would like to thank OnTheWater
    For its continuing reporting of poachers and poaching. Please keep up the great job you have been doing. OnTheWater uses there publication and very good name to shine a light on poachers and the continuing problem with poaching this is important and commendable. As a sport angler I would also like to thank all the law enforcement officers for the hard work they do to protect our fisheries.

  18. Carl Johansen

    It is time that any type of poaching be considered a crime against the environment and the maximum bearings of the laws should be imposed. This also includes those fish markets who buy the poached fish. The fish markets who knowingly purchase any poached sea food product should never be allowed to operate such entities ever again. If no one is buying these poached fish then we will have less poachers selling them

  19. Dale Simering

    Everybody are saying take his license, he doesn’t care if they take his license because he is going to do again but this time he’s going to be much smarter. If you look back, the recreational fisherman are punished more than the thief who takes way over there limit. Until they burn these thieves with taking there boat and slapping them with a substantial fine that hits home this will never stop. Dnr does there job and our court system lets them off. TERRIBLE and CRIMINAL.

  20. steve

    Then eveyone wonders why there is something wrong with the bass population.

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