Multi-Agency Task Force
Uncovers More than 100 Violations
Involving Individuals and Businesses
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SNewport News, VA -- For nearly three years, a multi-agency task force of special agents has been uncovering violations of state and federal laws intended to recover depleted marine species and assure the quality of seafood for sale in the Mid-Atlantic region.
"This task force is a major undertaking and I am pleased that we've been able to show significant results," said special agent Logan Gregory of NOAA Fisheries Enforcement, who led the effort for the agency. "By combining funds, equipment, and personnel the task force is able to increase effort and efficiency," he said. "We believe that cooperative law enforcement is essential to enforcing marine resource protection laws."
In the coming months, evidence collected in these joint operations is expected to support more cases. These include approximately 100 violations of state fishery laws in which more than a dozen individuals and businesses are implicated, investigation of at least 10 individuals on federal charges of trafficking in tainted wildlife, and cases unrelated to marine resources.
In all, four interlaced law enforcement operations have been conducted since 1998, focusing on such valuable commercial species as Atlantic tuna, Atlantic striped bass, sturgeon, blue crab, oysters, and flounder. Operations included surveillance, interviews, and undercover operations where agents posed as seafood buyers and sellers.
One operation included voluntary inspections of more than 90 seafood-hauling trucks by agents and officers during routine weigh-station stops on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Violations of state and federal marine resource laws were documented in approximately 25 percent of the inspections.
Evidence collected as part of that operation resulted in cases against four Virginia seafood dealers. Hampton Seafood Inc., Shore Seafood Inc., Edwards Seafood, and Mend Inc. recently plead guilty in Norfolk federal court to trafficking in tainted wildlife and have received up to $4,000.00 each in fines.
In another case based on that operation, seafood dealer Darryl L. Lilliston was brought to trial last September and convicted of a felony Lacey Act violation for trafficking undersized blue crabs from Virginia to Maryland. Assistant United States Attorney Robert Krask prosecuted the case. Lilliston, of Lilliston Seafood, was sentenced this month to four months imprisonment, four months home confinement, and three years supervised probation for the violation.
NOAA Office of Law Enforcement is the only federal office dedicated full time to the protection and conservation of the nation's living marine resources, including fish and marine mammals. To report fishery violations in the Northeast, call the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964.