Connecticut Man and
NY Seafood Dealer
Charged with Violations
NMFS Northeast Fisheries Science Center
N E W SGloucester, MA–A Niantic, Conn., man and a Greenport, N.Y., seafood dealer have been charged with multiple violations of federal commercial fishing rules. Both may pay hefty fines and the man may lose his fishing rights for a time.
NOAA alleges that between August 1998 and February 1999, Mario Gonsalves, while operating the fishing vessel Columbus, failed to report time spent on eight fishing trips for groundfish and illegally sold harvests from five of these trips to Greenport Seafood Docks, a dealer in New York.
The agency also alleges that the dealer did not have a federal permit and failed to properly report the purchases, and that both the dealer and Gonsalves made false statements to investigators in an attempt to hide these actions.
The agency is seeking suspension of Gonsalves' operator permit for three-and-a-half years as well as $210,000 in fines. NOAA also seeks a $120,000 fine from the dealer.
The allegations involve violations of rules established under federal law to rebuild depleted stocks of groundfish and allow sustainable harvest. Most commercial vessels harvesting these fish in federal waters can only do so for a certain amount of time each fishing year as part of the rebuilding plan for these stocks. This time is tracked by vessel operators calling in when they begin, and again when they end, a trip for these species. In addition, all landings must be reported by both the harvester and the buyer, and purchased only by federally-permitted dealers.
NOAA alleges that Greenport Seafood Dock, illegally purchased about 3,000 pounds of flounders from five of Gonsalves' unreported trips. The agency alleges that the company did not have the required dealer permit, failed to report the purchases, and denied purchasing from Gonsalves to conceal their illegal activities.
Those named in the actions, issued June 21 and June 22, have 30 days to respond and may ask for a hearing before an administrative law judge. The alleged offenses are civil, not criminal. The initial finding may also be appealed to the NOAA Administrator and through the federal district courts.
NOAA is the federal agency that conducts research and carries out public policy concerning the nation's atmosphere and oceans. NOAA Fisheries carries out this mission focusing on living marine resources. The investigation was conducted by NOAA Fisheries special agents.