Lifetime Fishing Ban
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SGloucester, MA–A New England scallop vessel skipper and the vessel’s owners face a $250,000 fine and permanent revocation of federal fishing permits stemming from multiple charges of illegally entering an area of Georges Bank closed to scalloping.
NOAA alleges that the fishing vessel Independence, a New Bedford-based scallop vessel, was illegally in Closed Area II on December 8 and December 11, 1998, and that the ship’s master and part owner, Lawrence M. Yacubian of Westport, Mass., made false statements to investigators about the amount of sea scallops aboard the vessel. These actions would be violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The vessel is owned by Lobsters, Inc., a fish company located in New Bedford, Mass., in which Yacubian is also part owner.
The vessel was detected in the closed area through a vessel monitoring system (VMS). This satellite-based reporting system is required on scallop vessels under the federal fishery management plan. Vessel monitoring systems are useful and reliable tools for showing vessel positions, and for reporting and receiving information during a fishing trip. Although VMS-based evidence has been used to dismiss suspected closed area violations, this is the first case where it is the sole evidence of the charged violation.
“Closed area violations are serious,” according to Charles Juliand, the NOAA enforcement attorney on the case. “It is not unusual for the agency to assess large fines and to seek to revoke fishing privileges in such cases,” says Juliand.
The agency is also seeking to retain the proceeds from the sale of fish and shellfish taken during the trip. The catch was seized as part of the investigation and sold for approximately $26,000. The funds will remain in escrow until a decision is rendered in the case.
Those named in the action, issued June 14, 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 and technicians, with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard.