March 19, 2013 -- Today, March 19, eight oyster fishermen entered a no contest plea for several health and oyster violations in the 15th Judicial District Court of Louisiana in Vermilion Parish.
The Honorable Judge Durwood Conque accepted the pleas from Antonio G. Ayala, 34, Jose L. Ayala, 41, Jose M. Ayala, 21, all of Dickinson, Texas, Jose F. Rodriguez, 31, Jose G. Arredondo, 45, Octavio R. Vega, 38, all of Houston, Texas, Jose M. Bocanegra, 23, of Bacliff, Texas, and Heliodoro Gonzalez-Bocanegra, 43, of Chalmette. Judge Conque ordered the men to each pay a fine of $1,922.50.
On July 25, 2012, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents in Vermilion Parish conducted surveillance on a group of oyster fisherman that were harvesting oysters in Southwest Pass.
Agents observed several boats coming into the dock in Intracoastal City with sacks of oysters that were labeled to be shucked and processed. However, agents later observed these fishermen change the tags on the sacks of oysters to indicate that the oysters could be consumed raw when offloading the sacks from their boats. These mislabeled sacks of oysters were then loaded onto a truck and were destined for Florida, before LDWF agents intercepted the shipment.
Oysters that are intended for raw consumption have strict harvest and refrigeration requirements that were not met by these fishermen. Agents seized a total of 495 sacks of oysters and returned them to the water in an area closed to oyster harvesting.
Each man pleaded no contest for violating the sanitation code for logbook and refrigeration requirements, adulterating or misbranding seafood, violating interstate commerce regulations and failing to fill out oyster tags correctly.
Since April of 2012, LDWF agents have seized over 1,000 sacks of oysters in Vermilion Parish alone and returned these oysters to closed areas. These seizures were mainly pertaining to the enforcement of refrigeration requirements for oysters intended for raw consumption.
Sgt. Justin Sonnier was the lead investigator on this case, which was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Aimee Hebert.
Major Jubal Marceaux, Capt. Robert Buatt, Sgt. Brian Theriot and Senior Agents Jason Stagg, Myron Verret, Derek Logan, Carl Pickett, Donnie Bozeman and Jason Marks also assisted with this case.
March 19, 2013 -- After a joint investigation between the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), LDWF Enforcement Division agents cited five New Orleans men for alleged fishing violations today, March 19.
LDWF agents cited Nam Nguyen, 52, Nam Truong, 82, Hung Tran, 55, Son Pham, 41, and Hang Nguyen, 51, for violating highly migratory species regulations in the Gulf of Mexico.
Agents received a complaint from NOAA Fisheries that the USCG discovered the vessel fishing in federal waters with live bait on March 18. LDWF agents boarded the vessel, The Blue Fin, when it returned to Dulac this morning and found J-hooks, hand lines and three places to hold live bait.
It is illegal to fish for highly migratory species in the Gulf of Mexico with live bait and J-hooks. Circle hooks and either artificial lures or dead bait can be used with a highly migratory species permit.
Violating highly migratory species regulations brings up to $50,000 in fines, loss of any highly migratory species permits for up to one year and loss of catch. Agents seized 2,861 pounds of yellowfin tuna and a total of 623 pounds of swordfish, wahoo and escolar, hand lines and two buoys.
LDWF Agents participating in the case are Sgt. Louis Burnett, Senior Agents Dean Aucoin and Norman Deroche and Sgt. Ted Dewitt. NOAA Fisheries Special Agent Steve Campbell and USCG Ensign Zack Bowman also assisted in the case.