Federal agents have fined eight shrimp trawlers for allegedly trawling this summer in areas of the Gulf of Mexico closed because of the BP oil spill.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that the eight shrimp trawlers were forced to dump about 107,500 pounds of shrimp back into the Gulf to prevent potentially tainted seafood from reaching the market. They also were issued fines ranging from $15,000 to $50,000.
The violations occurred during the summer, NOAA said.
“Throughout the oil spill event this summer, stringent enforcement of the closed areas was essential to ensuring both seafood safety and consumer confidence in Gulf seafood,” Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, said in a news release. “NOAA remains determined to protect the fishermen who follow the rules and the American public who eat the seafood they catch.”
The ships’ owners and operators can pay the fines or they can request a judicial hearing within 30 days.
The lone fisher to request a hearing, Qui Van Tran, of Houston, who owns and operates the fishing vessel Capt T, received a $15,000 fine for taking 5,639 pounds of shrimp from a closed area on June 22. His hearing is Jan. 18.
Ted Tan Nguyen, of Metairie, who ran the vessel Timmy Boy, was fined $18,000 for taking 2,000 pounds of shrimp from a closed zoned on June 23 and for two other violations involving bycatch reduction devices, NOAA said. He is the only person to have already paid the fines leveled against him.
The other six parties’ cases still remain open.
The owner Danny Boy Inc. and operator Mai Van Lang, of Kaplan, were issued $15,000 in fines for taking 30,000 pounds of shrimp from a closed area on July 2.
The owner Five Lopez Bros, Inc. and operator Benjamin Lopez, of Brownsville, Texas, were issued $15,000 in for taking about 12,000 pounds of shrimp on June 2.
The owner Russell Trawling Company, Inc., of Brownsville, and Arturo Gonzalez, of Rio Hondo, Texas, were issued a $15,000 fine for a June 20 violation that involved catching 20,000 pounds of shrimp from a closed zone.
Owner Tuyen T. Tran, of Pass Christian, Miss., and Ngoan Van Tran, of Marrero, were fined $50,000 in part for allegedly catching 30,000 pounds of shrimp in a closed area a second time on June 21 after previously being warned by state officials. Part of the fine also stems from four alleged violations regarding turtle excluder devices whose net openings were allegedly too small to allow larger, mature turtles to escape.
Owner Nga Pham and operator Hoang Pham, both of Houston, were issued a $15,000 fine for catching 3,000 pounds on July 19 from the boat Christina IV.
And owner L & N Friendship Corp. and Lang Ho, of Harvey, received a $20,000 penalty for catching 3,950 pounds of shrimp from a closed zone on Aug. 19.