NOAA Law Enforcement Uncovers Illegal Harvesting Scheme: An Infographic

NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement uncovers a conspiracy ring that illegally harvested Atlantic striped bass.

Two Special Agents from NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement spent more than 15,000 hours investigating an illegal fishing scheme that was operating off of the coast of North Carolina. Thirty co-conspirators were part of the illicit activity, but only 12 subjects were charged and sentenced in connection to this case, which saw 52 charges in 13 indictments.

The 12 subjects that were prosecuted for illegally harvesting 31,306 pounds of Atlantic striped bass in 2009 and 102,296 pounds in 2010. The annual trawl quota for North Carolina is only 160,160 pounds, which means the illegal harvesting of this species reduced the quota available to be caught by honest fishermen.
North Carolina striper investigation

The sentencing of the 12 subjects collectively resulted in:

  • The forfeiture of four vessels. The U.S. Attorney’s Office initially sought forfeiture of 7 vessels. Ultimately, 4 were forfeited and substitute assets in the amount of $124,000 were collected and paid to the U.S. Marshals Service.
  • Restitution amounting to $1.23 million. The most egregious conspirator was ordered to pay $653,795. All restitution was paid to the U.S. Treasury.
  • Probation from fisheries activities for a total of 38.5 years. The average probation sentence was 3 years. The maximum sentence was 5 years.
  • 850 hours of community service. Seven of the 12 conspirators received community service, while three were individually sentenced to 6 months of home confinement.

48 on “NOAA Law Enforcement Uncovers Illegal Harvesting Scheme: An Infographic

  1. Legal eagle

    What a joke! Not one day of jail time. U.S. Citizens paid for 15,000 hrs. Of investigating. CRIME DOES PAY!

  2. J

    There needs to be jail time! No community service, that is disgraceful. 15,000 hours of investigation – almost 1/2 million dollars paid by the public and we loose over 150,000 lbs of stripers not counting what the females cold have produced.

  3. Brian Sheehan

    Put all the Poachers and Trump in prison where they belong. Trump gutted all the enforcement agencies in an effort to appease his fellow Criminal/Crystal Meth/Draft Dodger pals and because he does not know how to do anything. Trump’s fellow criminals now feel free to destroy to fish stock. We are left with the problem – once again.

    1. Kent

      God I hope you jest. Otherwise
      What had the media done to you poor lost sheep?

    2. Mad Trapper

      I bet you voted for Princess Grey Beaver, aka Lieawhatha Warren

      1. sonny

        what an ass wipe Trump wasen,t even president back than unless you are talking about he needed fish for his casinos

  4. Richard OHal

    Maybe our president should forget the wall and use the man power to go after those native born rapist of one of our most precious resources .

  5. Joe Schmo

    Why does it take 15,000 hours? Why don’t they bust them for the illegal stuff as soon as it hits a certain amount? Even if these 2 guys make $25 an hour that’s $750,000. C’mon just to hand out probation and take some shitty boats. Maybe they should treat fish like drugs and then we will see a change. 100,000 pounds of fish. You don’t grab them after 15,000 pounds or 30. Nah let them keep going lets see how much we get them with

  6. BillyG

    Really legal eagle? So the 4 forfitted vessels, the $1.23 million, and the 850 hours of community service these guys will spend cleaning up the trash on the streets doesn’t make a dent in the cost that we pain to have NOAA investigate? Seems to me these guys did their jobs and did it well.

  7. Mike

    3 months of home confinement?

    Aka the off-season. They will be right back at it again next year. Way to slap em on the wrist boys. That will teach em!

    1. Tiki

      3 months off ( in the dead of winter)
      that’s 12 weeks of unemployment Checks,
      EBT food Stamps, Medicaid, public assistance …
      Good Time to Clean up Them Reels. and Drink some Beers !
      Not too shabby …….But they learnt their Lesson !
      What a Joke

  8. Larry

    The sentences are not a deterrent. I think a significant federal jail sentence would make others who continue these illegal activities stop.

  9. Ty

    So glad to know our tax dollars are being well spent. What a joke. My neighbor got slapped harder than that when he mistakenly shot a doe and turned himself in to set a good example for his son. Guess crime does pay. Should have charge all of them and pulled their right to fish, both recreationally and commercially. So maybe the next guy will think twice.

  10. Adolph G Reinhardt

    They should be banned from fishing commercially and privately for 20 years. And they should be fined heavily. These punks deserve to be banned from the fishing community. Low life’s.

  11. Grady

    what an absolute joke. The saddest part is that they could have really made an example out of these assholes

  12. RozzieBo

    I’d love to know what exactly did they do for 15k hours? If this is all the punishment these thieves are getting the end certainly didn’t satisfy the means. Sportsmen and Taxpayers lost twice over.

  13. Chuckg

    The wheels of justice turn exceedingly slow but grind exceedingly fine. Good work!

  14. Bobby

    Who are these poachers ? Where do they live? What are their addresses and phone numbers? What are their backgrounds? What other kinds of illegal activities might they be involved with. Publish that, and tell me why the others involved got away with it? Sad

  15. Fire Ecsape

    Way to show those poachers! I’ll bet they are not back out there stealing our resources again until ….. 2019.

  16. Migliaro Chris

    What a joke!!! Those two spent roughly 3,5 yrs full time each on one of the biggest cases of abuse and all they got was fines and probation. They should quit their jobs and the prosecutors be fired bc they’re worthless as prosecutors!!!

  17. Brian pagel

    Too funny community service. And MA opened up the commercial season as the quota wasn’t filled.

  18. kevin

    seems to me the crime was worth the risk. 15000 hours is 375 weeks at 40 hrs a week. what a waste!

  19. Joseph P GaNun

    This was not just happening in 2009, 2010. Probably cost the fishery many times more of the resource. The sentences are an embarrassment and certainly no deterrent to others. Those other boats will be out doing their thing in a heartbeat. Those other guys will be part of it. What a joke.

  20. Bandy Legs

    Well I agree with Chuck G and agree that this was a job well done despite the wheels of justice turning so slow. Unfortunately I’m thinking these guys should be banned from fishing for life. Could happen if they can’t afford another boat.

  21. Pete

    I’ve heard harsher penalties for recreational fishing men that took 2, instead of the allowance of 1 daily. They ruined it for a lot of people that follow the law…….wonder why stripe bass population is way down. You should use that money for farm raised ones, to bring the wild population back up, instead of paying a federal agency.

  22. John

    The commercial fishing interests in North Carolina have gotten away with destroying the fishing population for many many years and their STATE wildlife commission has lost it’s power to do their job. Damn shame they continue to rape their own resources.

  23. John Francesconi

    Jail Time should have been imposed. I have tagged over 2,000 stripers and can only wonder how many were netted by these thieves. In addition, their actions were a slap in the face to both commercial and recreational fishermen. Shame on the courts.

  24. Doug O.

    I must be missing something — annual quota of 160,160 allowed. 2009 31,306; 2010 102,296. The article is a little confusing. Does that mean they took 160,160 + 31,306 in 2009? And 160,160 + 102,296 in 2010? I am not trying to be a jerk, I am just confused by the way it is written.

  25. Selly

    All other states on the eastern seaboard have worked very long and hard in restoring and protecting the striper population. North Carolina on the other hand, has weakened their state enforcement in favor of their commercial fishing industry and destroyed their once renowned
    Sport Fishing. I have personally witnessed this sad transformation.

  26. Uncle BOB

    OK, now it is time to hit our local MA mafia. I saw a group of big guys taking tens of huge stripers using river herring minnows for bait (!!!) in canal, reported on them, but nobody showed up.

  27. Bgfish

    Stop blaming the president it’s the morons off North Carolina in the judges who don’t enforce the law and if they can’t change the law leave politics out of it

  28. Edward Correia Jr

    My limit is 1 fish if I caught 3 and kept them they would take my 20000 boat 3000.00 trailer and my 20,000 truck where’s the justice

  29. Roman Dudus

    It’s the judges and attorneys that are the issues. How long has this been going on? They don’t take this seriously. Take their boats, fine them, give them jail time and throw them out of commercial fishing for good. This will really get their attention. I wonder if this stems from when all those big stripers were seen floating behind the trawlers. You know who loses, recreational fishermen (the honest ones). We need monitoring on all these commercial vessels. How many of the vessels get away with this everyday? MAKE THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME!!!!!!!!

  30. Kyle

    No jail time and only an average of a couple years suspended..are you kidding me. What a joke

  31. mark v

    A, what has the president have to do with it?
    B, you clowns treat fish like all the other idiots treat there cats and dogs
    What a bunch of self centered egotisticsllossers

  32. Bgfish

    If you take the stuff away they go on another boat and put it in their wife or children’s name and continue banned for life is the only solution

  33. walt

    Why isn’t anyone asking where those fish were being sold. The buyers are just as guilty as the catcher. take away the market and the reason to illegally fish goes away. Ask where the sellers are. That easy as well. It’s the New York fish markets. They processes more illegal fish then any other market. A person who work there complained to the Fed. 10 years ago and nothing was done even after they investigated and found it to be true. Fish are required to be tagged and over half of the fish checked were found untagged. It plain and simple, the judges don’t care.

  34. a.m

    to Brian Sheehan you idiot the investigation was in 2009 to 2010 Trump wasn’t President Your Buddy Obama was

  35. Bill

    The infographic is nice and all, but what is the actual story and what are the details. The article merely mentions that they illegally harvested the fish and then there is a fine-print mention of Federal waters. Does this just mean all the commercial guys got together and went trawling past the 3-mile line with a “you watch out for me, I’lll watch out for you” deal? I can only assume so. I can’t imagine what other scenario could have been discovered through investigating electronic data.

  36. Scott

    I agree this is just a slap on the wrist. Look what happened to the Cod in Cape Cod Bay from overfishing. GONE. Are Striped Bass next. I am a novice fisherman. I fished all spring and summer from my boat in Nantucket Sound. I caught lots of schoolies and threw them all back as too small. I did NOT catch any keepers. Its because guys like this – and I assume there are lots more – just look at the Canal – that sweep out the keepers so legal fisherman like me catch NONE. Throw them in JAIL.

  37. Greg W

    As a Sport Angler speaking for all Sport Anglers.

    Thank you law Enforcement for your hard work protecting our fisheries.

    Thank you OTW for publishing these stories.
    The free press keeping a spotlight on these issues is a big part of enforcement.

  38. Steve winters

    Let’s be happy someone did something. This is huge deterrent for future law breaking commercial fishermen. Loosing your boat is substantial. As far a our president, all you Liberials should join your friends in Cali.

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