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Press Release

Commercial Fisherman Pleads Guilty to Illegal Harvesting of Striped Bass

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

NORFOLK, Va. – A Saxis man pleaded guilty today to violating the Lacey Act related to his illegal harvest of striped bass.

According to court documents, Keith J. Martin, 52, was a commercial fisherman licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia to harvest striped bass. Between 2018 and 2020, Martin routinely violated Virginia state law in the harvesting of striped bass from Virginia waters. Martin took bass in excess of his quota, failed to report the amount of bass he took, and completed at least one sale of striped bass with a commercial purchaser without using a properly certified scale.

For instance, in 2018 and 2019 Martin had a quota of 4,010 pounds of striped bass. Investigators learned that Martin sold over 6,000 pounds of striped bass to a single seafood company in Maryland in 2018 and over 4,300 pounds to the same company in 2019. Martin’s harvesting of the striped bass in violation of Virginia law, coupled with transporting it in interstate commerce to Maryland, constitutes a violation of the Lacey Act. During the relevant period, Martin illegally harvested and sold at least 12,663 pounds of striped bass, constituting a commercial value of at least $36,988.25.

Martin is scheduled to be sentenced on October 26. He faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Edward Grace, Assistant Director of Law Enforcement for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence R. Leonard accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph L. Kosky is prosecuting the case.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:23-cr-40.

Updated June 12, 2023