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A commercial king mackerel fisherman was recently fined more than $50,000 for multiple violations of the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation Management Act. The fines came as a result of a vessel inspection in Port Canaveral (Brevard County) by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Late last month NOAA issued David Sanderson (DOB 08/24/67), 15258 86 Way, North West Palm Beach, two federal fines totaling $51,975 for three counts of harvesting king mackerel in excess of the commercial trip limit, and two counts of making false statements to law enforcement officers.
Sanderson owns the commercial fishing vessel Stapleton. On Dec. 23, 2009, NOAA agents and FWC officers working a joint federal-state fisheries detail boarded the Stapleton to inspect the vessel’s catch. FWC officers Corey Bridwell and Justin Morgan, and NOAA Special Agent Mark Fields discovered a hidden compartment on the vessel that contained more king mackerel than is allowed by federal law. King mackerel are commonly called kingfish.
Sanderson has 30 days to request a hearing before a federal administrative law judge.
“This type of illegal activity has a serious impact on the livelihood of other commercial fishermen, as well as the sustainability of the king mackerel commercial fishery,” said Fields, who is from NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division.
“For example, if a commercial vessel such as the Stapleton harvests 10 kingfish over the trip limit, at a commercial value of $2 per pound, that would be taking 100 pounds of the quota and $200 away from the other king mackerel fishermen on every trip. If it fished for one week and exceeded the limit by10 every day, the vessel would be pocketing an additional $1,400 a week and taking an extra 700 pounds of the quota away from the other fishermen.”
NOAA Agent Fields documented the vessel-harvesting overages on three separate occasions and said federal fishery rules are in place to protect commercial fishermen and the fish populations.
From Nov. 1 through March 31, the commercial trip limit for king mackerel south of the Flagler/Volusia County line and north of the Miami-Dade/Monroe County line is 50 fish per day, until Feb. 1. After Feb. 1, trip limits may increase to 75 fish per day, if 75 percent of the quota has not been reached.
NOAA Fisheries’ Office of Law Enforcement, through numerous joint enforcement agreements, has federally deputized fish-and-wildlife and environmental law enforcement officers in 23 coastal states and territories, including Florida, to enforce federal fisheries regulations.