WASHINGTON, D.C. Ė The Department of Justice announced today that a federal grand jury in Houston, Texas returned a four-count indictment charging two Port Bolivar-based commercial fishermen with illegally importing red snapper into the United States, a violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (the Magnuson-Stevens Act).
The indictment alleges that Hoang Nguyen, captain of the fishing vessel Thanh Tam, along with fellow crew members, illegally harvested red snapper while the commercial fishing season was closed, in excess of the 2,000 pound trip limit and beneath the minimum size limit of 15 inches. The indictment further alleges that Nguyen imported the illegally-harvested red snapper into the United States, a violation of federal law both on November 27, 2004 and March 1, 2005. Nguyen and Thanh Tam crew member Tam Van Le subsequently attempted to sell the red snapper imported on November 27, 2004. It is further alleged on March 1, 2005, Nguyen smuggled the illegally-harvested red snapper into the United States and that both Nguyen and Le facilitated its concealment aboard the Thanh Tam.
Historically, the red snapper fishery has been severely over-fished due to the red snapperís marketability. The Magnuson-Stevens Act regulates commercial fishing activities in the waters extending from the seaward boundary of each coastal state to 200 miles out to sea. In order to ensure red snapper stocks for the future, the Magnuson-Stevens Actís fishery management plan for the Gulf of Mexico requires that legally-permitted commercial fishing vessels only harvest red snapper during an open season, maintain a maximum single trip limitation of 2,000 pounds and take only red snapper having a minimum length measurement of 15 inches.
This investigation was conducted by special agents from the NOAA Fisheries Service Office for Law Enforcement with assistance provided by game wardens with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Georgiann Cerese of the Department of Justiceís Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section.
Each of the charges in the indictment carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000. Individuals named in indictments are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.