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Commercial Fishing Vessel’s Captain Indicted for Disposing of Spiny Lobster Tails to Prevent their Seizure

WASHINGTON – Zane H. Fennelly, a former captain of a Jacksonville, Fla.-based commercial fishing vessel, was arrested earlier today on an indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Aug. 2, 2007, in Jacksonville, Fla., the Justice Department announced today.

According to the indictment, Fennelly knowingly disposed of and attempted to destroy three bags containing spiny lobster tails upon the approach of U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers on July 21, 2006, while on the vessel which was located within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the United States.

The Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (Magnuson–Stevens Act) regulates fishing activities in the waters extending from the seaward boundary of each coastal state to 200 miles out to sea. In order to ensure spiny lobster stocks for the future, the Magnuson–Stevens Act’s fishery management plan for the South Atlantic allows commercial and recreational fishing for spiny lobster in the EEZ off Florida only during a season which is open between August 6 and March 31 and requires that egg-bearing spiny lobster from the EEZ be returned immediately to the water unharmed.

This investigation was conducted by special agents from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service Office for Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John Sciortino and Trial Attorney Georgiann Cerese of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.