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Monday - August 18, 2003

NEW BERN - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that WOODROW GREGORY HALL was sentenced in federal court in New Bern, N. C., on Monday, August 18, 2003, for making false statements to the National Marine Fisheries Service. Chief U. S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle presided. HALL, 40, of 109 King Arthur Drive, Wilmington, N. C., pled guilty to a Criminal Information filed by the United States Attorney's Office on July 21, 2003.

He received a sentence of three years probation and a fine of $12,000.00. Judge Boyle also ordered HALL to perform 150 hours of community service.

According to testimony and evidence presented in court, on or about April 27, 2000, HALL applied for a duplicate limited entry vessel permit for the snapper/grouper fishery from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), knowing that he had previously sold his original permit. Attached to his application was a handwritten note claiming that he had lost the original permit. Since NMFS was unaware of the sale of the original permit, it issued a duplicate permit to HALL. NMFS subsequently learned of the sale when the new holder applied for renewal.

The federal Magnuson-Stevens Act directs that overfishing be prevented and that overfished stocks be rebuilt. In conjunction with the South Atlantic Council, NMFS determined that the size and capacity of fishing vessels in the South Atlantic region had increased so much that there was excessive harvesting of snapper and grouper from the waters. In an effort to conserve the fish population for future years, NMFS and the Council determined that it would be in the best interest of the public, to limit participation in commercial fishing of snapper and grouper to those vessels that held a commercial permit between February 11, 1996, and February 11, 1997. In addition, NMFS determined that in order for a vessel to obtain a permit, it must submit two permits that it had obtained by way of transfer from other vessels. One of the goals of the revisions to the permit rules was "to promote orderly utilization of the resource in the fishery and facilitate long-term planning."

The permit rule changes were publicized in 1998 and included requirements that (1) the owner or operator of a vessel with a permit notify the Regional Administrator within 30 days after any change in the application information, or the permit would be void; and (2) to change either the vessel or the owner of a snapper-grouper limited access permit [which is what HALL had], an application for transfer be submitted to the Regional Administrator.

Investigation of the case was conducted by the National Marine Fisheries Service. Assistant U. S. Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan is handling the case for the government.

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