North Carolina Striper Poacher Pleads Guilty

Dewey W. Willis Jr. of Newport, North Carolina, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, North Carolina, to federal charges regarding the illegal harvest and sale of Atlantic striped bass from federal waters off the coast of North Carolina during 2010, the Justice Department announced on Monday, September 26, 2016.

The defendant faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 12. Willis was accused along with 12 other commercial fishermen of illegally harvesting and selling about 90,000 pounds of striped bass with an estimated retail value of $1.1 million.

This multi-defendant investigation began as a result of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) receiving intelligence and directing the U.S. Coast Guard to board the fishing vessel Lady Samaira in February 2010, based on a complaint that multiple vessels were fishing Striped Bass illegally. Willis was charged with violating the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits individuals from transporting, selling or buying fish and wildlife harvested illegally. Additionally, Willis, along with 11 of these fishermen, also has been charged with filing false reports in connection with the illegally harvested fish. Specifically, the indictment against Willis alleges that the he transported and sold Atlantic striped bass, knowing that they were unlawfully harvested from federal waters off the coast of North Carolina. In an effort to hide his illegal fishing activities, Willis, falsely reported harvesting these fish from state waters, where it would have been legal.

“The illegal poaching of striped bass by commercial fishermen has a major impact on the survival of this iconic fish resource and has the potential to devastate the future livelihoods of law abiding commercial fishermen,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s plea agreement demonstrates the department’s dedication to pursuing those who fail to respect the law and fail to adequately monitor their harvest to stay within legal limits.”

“Our office was pleased to partner with the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice in this significant case,” said U.S. Attorney John Stuart Bruce for the Eastern District of North Carolina. “This prosecution makes clear that efforts to circumvent laws regulating commercial fishing will be enforced vigorously.”

28 on “North Carolina Striper Poacher Pleads Guilty

  1. Billy Rusk

    I really hope he’s punished to the full extent of the law to send a message to others that this will not be tolerated. And thank you to all of the commercial fishermen who do play by the rules.

    1. Bruce Tainter

      I full agree with Billy Rusk! I hope they too get punishment to the full extent of the law to send a message to others that this will not be tolerated. And thank you to all of the commercial fishermen who do play by the rules.

    2. Bev

      Careful how you speak until you know the full story on these guys. I do know the full story and only 1 was caught in the wrong and they assumed the other 12 had done the same. “Don’t judge until you know the facts” SEA WIFE

  2. Dan

    Make 1.1M pay a 250k fine 6 years later there is no disincentive for this behavior.

  3. Bill Wetzel

    250,000 dollar fine for 1.1 million in bass. How the hell does that work?

  4. tom

    I think the article says he and 11 others took bass worth 1.1mil and his fine is 250G. I don’t know if it is a proportional split but I don’t know why he doesn’t simply lose the boat and go work on shore.

  5. Dan

    Can’t anybody read?
    They didn’t get $12 and change at the dock.
    The supermarket that eventually sells them will get that.
    Don’t you know what retail means?
    There were 13 guys. Now try the numbers.
    If you’re determined to whine, try to figure out what you’re whining about.

  6. russ burgess

    The 250 k is the maximum fine allowed by law. There was a plea bargin. He is not going to pay 250k in fines and if anyone thinks this guy is going to jail for 5 years. Think again. Not happening!

  7. TJ

    You people must fish every now and then…or are just . Okay stripped bass are hard enough to catch even with a dragger its still only a few thousand pounds. Fishing is unpredictable. If this guy and his crew along with some other boats were killing the fishing then they should be able to fish their asses off because most likely the next week those fish will be gone and mooved on to different bodies of water. the goverment telling is fisherman who could catch what when and how much. They use the excuse that fish wont be there years later if one pperaon catches a few large schools of fish. Buncha bull if you ask me its just the federal fish and game police trying to make money. All the fish confiscated are getting sold anyways and the officers profit. The only good fish and game does is help young injured animals rehabilitate and make sure people dont kill or harvest young animals… fish specifically but also small game and other big game. Thats it people. Theres plenty of fish to go around. Take it from a person who fishes every day. I catch more small stripped bass in a week than yall catch in your weekend trip to montauk. And as soon as i catch them they are gone and its crickets for another week sometimes two. Same goes for commercial guys and legal sized to monster stripped bass. Its not over fishing that makes it harder for us to catch or reason why we are skunked. Its that you guys either suck at fishing or the fiah had mooved because of the crazy weather. Very simple.

    1. Bill

      @TJ, I have personally seen an entire school of fish entirely 100% wiped out so that they never returned. My grandfather and my mom and aunts and my brothers all had our turn at an inshore school of tinker mackerel every Spring. About 20 years ago, a fleet of Russian fishing/processing boats came in and netted the entire school for 3 years, until they passed a law banning them. Sadly, it was too late. There has not been another tinker mackerel run since.

  8. marcuswelby

    We need to keep dropping those dimes.
    Kudos to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The U.S. Coast Guard, and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.

  9. Bill

    First, I will say that poaching fish for commercial gain is reprehensible and totally unforgivable. That said, it’s a little misleading to suggest he (and 12 others) harvested $1.1M worth of fish. In reality, none of them got $12/lb. They probably got a lot closer to $2/lb. So really, he (and 12 other guys) harvested $180K worth of fish. So even if he harvested half those 90,000 lbs., a $250K fine is still substantial.

  10. Hook line and sinker

    It’s just a fish and I dont see where there’s much of a shortage of them . For the ones so upset about it think about what feeds your children

      1. John

        If there is a moderator on this website the comment should be taken down. It is 2016 those are things you just do not say anymore. Kind of hurtful when people who read this page have children who have special needs and family members.

    1. Marc Hentoz

      You are ignorant, sir. The catches have steadily decreased over the years. If it were not for government regulations stripe bass would be extinct in the wild.

  11. Mike Gambardella

    The really problem is our federal government that put unfair restrictions on the seafood industry. They rather important more unhealthy chemical seafood. There over 92 percent of chemical unhealthy import fish sold in the US. Our commercial fishermen are throwing overboard wild caught chemical free seafood daily. That’s a crime.

  12. GM

    The problem is not federal goverment Unfair restriction. It ‘s the people who have no respect.I’ll leagal rock fishing is no different than stealing.And your fellow waterman that plays by the rules suffers the most. By a few greedy low life .

  13. MIKE

    As for the last ten years , the little guys get screwed [ recreational fisherman ], commercial guys do what they want. We are aloud 2 fish , they are aloud 500 per day. Fluke another story, we get 5 at 19″ to 16″depending on the state , they get 10 to 12″ nets full. But they smack us ! Look at the weakfish they wiped out almost the whole fishery. We get one fish. So what happens when they drag for miles , net full of dead fish all kinds , whoops they dump , and start again.
    jail time sounds good to me ,also loose their boat and the rite to fish.

  14. TC

    and recreational fisherman play by the rules and usually take home NOTHING!
    I’ve released ten of thousand fish myself.
    So much for the rules………….

    1. Howard Quin

      Wow! Willis Seafood down at Salter Path! Knew ’em when I used
      to live down there. Used to sell a lot of mullet and spanish macks off the piers. Sorry to hear they’re doing stuff like that.

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