WASHINGTON—Three more commercial fishermen were sentenced this week in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., for illegally harvesting and under-reporting their catch of striped bass, also known as rockfish, the Justice Department announced. The sentencings are part of the on-going prosecution of individuals and wholesalers who have participated in a black market to overfish and under-report rockfish catch from the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waterways, which is the largest spawning ground for striped bass on the East Coast.
John W. Dean of Scotland, Md., was sentenced today to one month in prison followed by five months of home detention. He was also fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution. Dean was responsible for overharvesting over $100,267 worth of rockfish.
Thomas Crowder Jr. of Leonardtown, Md., was sentenced on April 28, 2009, to serve 15 months in prison followed by three years supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and $96,250 in restitution. Crowder was responsible for overharvesting over $956,200 worth of rockfish.
Charles Quade of Churchtown, Md., was sentenced on April 27, 2009, to five months in prison followed by five months home detention as part of three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $15,000 in restitution. Quade was responsible for overharvesting over $151,500 worth of rockfish.
The restitution from each sentence is being paid to the congressionally-established National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which has established a Chesapeake Bay Rockfish Restoration Account. The fines paid by the defendants will be paid into the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, which is maintained by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Dean, Crowder and Quade each pleaded guilty on Feb. 19, 2009, and admitted that from 2003 to 2007 they illegally harvested rockfish with the assistance of a Maryland designated fish check-in station. In each year, they failed to record some of the striped bass that was caught or recorded a lower weight of striped bass than was actually caught. The three commercial fishermen and the check-in station operator would also falsely inflate the actual number of fish harvested. By under-reporting the weight of fish harvested, and over-reporting the number of fish taken, the records would make it appear that the defendants had failed to reach the maximum poundage quota for the year, but had nonetheless run out of tags. As a result, the state would issue additional tags that could be used by the defendants allowing them to catch striped bass above their maximum poundage quota amount.
Charges were filed on April 20, 2009, against the fish wholesaler and its owner who operated the check-in station that assisted Dean, Crowder and Quade in violating the law. Golden Eye Seafood LLC and owner, Robert Lumpkins of St. Mary’s County, Md., were charged with four felony counts including conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and three substantive violations of the Act.
Sentencing dates for the remaining commercial fishermen who have pleaded guilty to similar charges are listed below.
Keith A. Collins, May 28, 2009, 9:30 AM
Kenneth Dent, July 2, 2009, 9:30 AM
Jerry Decatur, Sr., July 1, 2009, 9:30 AM
Additionally, Cannon Seafood, a Washington, D.C., fish wholesaler, its owner, Robert Moore Sr. and his son Robert Moore Jr. are scheduled for sentencing on May 8, 2009, at 9:30 AM in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Two fishermen, Joseph Peter Nelson Jr. of Great Mills, Md., and his father Joseph Peter Nelson of Avenue, Md., have been indicted in the District of Maryland and are awaiting trial.
As a result of the investigation and prosecution, two fish wholesalers and a total of 14 individuals have been charged, including today’s defendants. Additionally, four defendants have been sentenced to prison as a result of the investigation.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf for the District of Maryland and Senior Trial Attorney Wayne Hettenbach of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section.