Story last updated at 12/10/2008 - 11:29 am
A Seattle fisheries group has been fined $449,700 by NOAA enforcement officials for a series of fisheries violations that occurred in the Bering Sea between 2002 and 2004.
The settlement was reached between NOAA's Office of the General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation with the The Fishing Company of Alaska, Leon J. Duvall, Christian Ralph Thome Jr., Brian Madruga, and Alaska Juris Inc.
They admitted violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act, including interfering with observer sampling, tampering with observer gear, failing to assist observers, mishandling prohibited species, fishing in a habitat conservation area, and fishing during a closed period.
NOAA spokesman Stuart Cory said the incidents involving the 238-foot vessel, which is still involved in groundfish fisheries, occurred in the Bering Sea.
"Protecting the integrity of the observer data collection procedure helps ensure the integrity of the fisheries management program," said NOAA Enforcement special agent Mike Killary. "Our certified groundfish observers serve a vital role in providing real time data to fisheries managers that allows them to effectively conserve and manage Alaska's fishery resources."
NOAA's Fisheries Service law enforcement agents conducted the investigation that led to the civil administrative prosecution of the Fishing Company of Alaska and the vessel owner and captains.
"The regulations help protect observers from any form of interference that could undermine their ability to collect unbiased data," Killary said.