Five Virginia Charter Fishing Boat Captains Sentenced for Lacey Act Violations
Nolan L. Agner, the last of five Virginia Beach charter fishing boat captains convicted of poaching Atlantic striped bass was sentenced today in federal court in Norfolk, Va. All five captains – including Agner, Jeffery S. Adams, Raymond Carroll Webb, David Dwayne Scott, and William W. “Duby” Lowery IV – were sentenced for violating the Lacey Act by selling illegally-harvested striped bass, the Justice Department announced.
“As charter boat captains, these men had an obligation to know and follow the laws that protect this natural resource from overharvesting,” said Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Their illegal poaching of striped bass gave them an unfair economic advantage over law abiding fisherman and irresponsibly posed a threat to this food supply. “With these sentences, they will pay the price by serving jail time or receiving probation, as well as paying fines, surrendering their captain’s license, or having their operations closely monitored or curtailed.”
In 1984, Congress passed the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, recognizing that “Atlantic striped bass are of historic commercial and recreational importance and economic benefit to Atlantic coastal States and to the Nation,” and that it “is in the national interest to implement effective procedures and measures to provide for effective inter-jurisdictional conservation and management of this species.” Since 1990, the Secretary of Commerce has imposed a moratorium on fishing for striped bass within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the zone where the U.S. and other coastal nations have jurisdiction over economic and resource management. The moratorium makes it unlawful to fish for or harvest striped bass in the EEZ. The moratorium also makes it unlawful to retain any striped bass that were taken in or from the EEZ.
The Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of the United States, or to attempt to do so. Such conduct constitutes a felony crime if the market value of the fish or wildlife is in excess of $350. Under the Lacey Act, it is a “sale” of fish or wildlife for any person, for money or other consideration, to offer or provide guiding, outfitting, or other services.
Each of the captains, all of whom operated charters out of Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach, was charged separately on Nov. 8, 2012, with violating the Lacey Act by selling charter fishing trips to harvest striped bass illegally from the EEZ, among other charges.
Today, Agner, captain of the Flat Line, having previously pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act, was sentenced to pay a $3,500 fine. He and his corporation, Agner, Inc., were also placed on three years’ probation with special conditions requiring them to purchase and maintain a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) device on any vessel that they own or operate for fishing purposes during the term of probation.
The other four defendants all previously pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act and have been sentenced:
On, April 25, 2013, Scott, captain of the Stoney’s Kingfisher, was sentenced to a $5,600 fine and $1,900 in restitution to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Scott was also sentenced to three years’ probation with special conditions prohibiting Scott from engaging in either the charter or commercial fishing industries, anywhere in the world, in any capacity, during the term of his probation. Scott is prohibited not only from captaining a vessel, but also rendering any assistance, support, or other services, with or without compensation, for other charter or commercial fishermen.
Also on April 25, 2013, Adams, captain of the Providence II, and his corporation Adams Fishing Adventures, were sentenced to three years’ probation with special conditions requiring them to apply for and receive a Federal Fisheries permit, and to purchase and install a VMS device on any vessel that they own or operate during the term of probation.
On May 30, 2013, Lowery, captain of the Anna Lynn, was sentenced to 30 days’ in jail, followed by 12 months of supervised release with the special conditions that Lowery surrender his captain’s license to the U.S. Coast Guard and that he not be eligible for reinstatement of that license. Lowery is also prohibited from engaging in the charter fishing industry in any capacity during the term of his supervised release.
On July 2, 2013, Webb, captain of the Spider Webb, and his corporation Peake Enterprises were sentenced to pay a $3,000 fine and $1,000 restitution to NOAA. Webb and Peake Enterprises were also sentenced to three years’ probation with special conditions requiring them to apply for and receive a Federal Fisheries permit, and to purchase and install a VMS device on any vessel that they own or operate during the term of probation.
This case was investigated by NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and the Virginia Marine Police with assistance from the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau, Norfolk Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen W. Haynie of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney James B. Nelson of the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.