The authority for sports coverage in the Fredericksburg region.
Ken Perrotte’s Outdoors Column: Striper greed costly to captains
FIVE CHARTER fishing boat captains operating out of Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach were indicted last week for violating the Lacey Act by selling illegally harvested striped bass.
According to the Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the fish were allegedly caught within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which spans coastal waters three to 200 miles offshore.
Anyone who has fished for winter rockfish (striped bass) near Virginia Beach knows how exciting it can be to see hundreds of birds frantically working the water above an obvious school of prime fish. Sometimes, though, all the action appears to be happening four miles off the coast. The temptation to head to the fish is great, but potential risks are huge, and speedy law enforcement boats routinely patrol just outside that three-mile limit.
Congress passed the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act in 1984, recognizing that “Atlantic striped bass are of historic commercial and recreational importance and economic benefit to Atlantic coastal States and to the Nation.”
Since 1990, a moratorium has existed on fishing for or keeping stripers within the EEZ. The Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase any fish and wildlife taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of the United States, or to attempt to do so.
Knowingly participating in a sale or intended sale of fish with a market value exceeding $350, while also knowing the fish were taken or transported illegally, raises the crime to felony level.
The boat captains face charges that they sold charter fishing trips and harvested striped bass from the EEZ. Captains and charges include:
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine per count, and forfeiture of fishing vessels used during the commission of the crimes. Corporate defendants face
a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine per count, as well as forfeiture of the fishing vessels used during the commission of the crimes.
The case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fisheries, Office for Law Enforcement, and the Virginia Marine Police with assistance from the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau, Norfolk Office.
SPORTSMEN’S ACT VOTE
The U.S. Senate may vote as early as Thursday on Senate Bill 3525, the comprehensive piece of legislation known as the Sportsmen’s Act. Senators voted 92–5 Tuesday to take up debate on the bill today.
The legislation packages 16 separate bills. A similar package of bills—the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R. 4089)—was passed by the House of Representatives in the spring by a vote of 276–146.
A key component of the legislation is the Hunting, Fishing and Recreational Shooting Protection Act, which would exclude ammunition and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation issued a statement saying passage of the act will prevent organizations such as the Center for Biological Diversity from suing the Environmental Protection Agency in attempts to force bans on traditional ammunition with lead components. Such a ban would “devastate hunting and shooting sports participation, drive up ammunition prices by almost 200 percent on average and dry up conservation funding,” the NSSF stated.
Other provisions include a requirement that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund funding be made available to secure public access to federal public land for hunting, fishing and other recreational purposes; and the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act, which makes Pittman–Robertson funds available to states for a longer time for the creation and maintenance of shooting ranges. It also encourages federal land agencies to cooperate with state and local authorities to maintain shooting ranges, and limits liability for these agencies.
Also rolled up in the act is a prohibition on the sale of billfish parts and a requirement for the secretary of the interior, in consultation with the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, to establish the cost of federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamps (also called “duck stamps”) every three years.
Sen. Jon Tester, D–Mont., sponsored the bill, which is backed by nearly 50 conservation and wildlife groups. To register a last-minute opinion on the bill, call your senator at 202/224-3121.
Ken Perrotte can be reached at The Free Lance–Star, 616 Amelia Street, Fredericksburg, Va. 22401, by fax at 373-8455 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.