Tuesday, June 1, 2021

USCG, NOAA, Border Protection Investigate Illegal Fishing Vessels

Members of the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have been cracking down on illegal commercial tuna fishing vessels operating out of the State of Washington during the summer.

The agencies have discovered eight “paper captain” violations in the area since 2019.

Law 46 USC §12131 states that a documented vessel must be commanded by a U.S. citizen, but a number of fishing boats have been using foreign nationals to serve as captain of U.S. commercial fishing boats while fraudulently listing U.S. subordinates as captains on paper.

Violators could face up to five years in prison for submitting fraudulent documents to the Coast Guard or other federal agencies. One fishing fleet based in Washington had to pay $9,150 in civil penalties, as well as $140,000 in additional fines pending adjudication, according to the USCG.

“The employment of a foreign national as captain aboard a U.S.-flagged commercial fishing vessel is illegal,” said Lt. Cmdr. Colin Fogarty, the enforcement chief at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River in Warrenton, Oregon. “The practice of utilizing ‘paper captains’ subverts U.S. laws and regulations designed to protect hard-working American fishermen and mariners.”