Fisherman robbed by our own government!

Imagine my shock when I read this:

Man catches 881-pound tuna, seized by feds

A Massachusetts fisherman pulled in an 881-pound tuna this week only to have the federal authorities take it away. It sounds like a libertarian twist on the classic novella by Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, but for Carlos Rafael, the saga is completely true.

Rafael and his crew were using nets to catch bottom-dwellers when they inadvertently snagged the giant tuna. However, federal fishery enforcement agents took control of the behemoth when the boat returned to port. The reason for the seizure was procedural: While Rafael had the appropriate permits, fishermen are only allowed to catch tuna with a rod and reel.

It would seem that unlike the fictional New England shark hunters in Jaws, Rafael didn’t need a bigger boat, just a better permit.

In an interview with the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Rafael disputes the claims from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)  enforcement division that the humungous tuna was trawled from the bottom of the Atlantic. “They didn’t catch that fish on the bottom,” he said. “They probably got it in the mid-water when they were setting out and it just got corralled in the net. That only happens once in a blue moon.”

And while Rafael is denied the mother of all fish stories, the federal impoundment of his catch also means he’s probably losing out on a giant payday. A 754-pound tuna recently sold for nearly $396,000. NOAA regulators do not share any of the proceeds from the fish’s eventual sale with a fisherman found in violation of federal rules.

“They said it had to be caught with rod and reel,” a frustrated Rafael said. “We didn’t try to hide anything. We did everything by the book. Nobody ever told me we couldn’t catch it with a net.”

Rafael says he has meticulously prepared for a giant catch like this, purchasing 15 tuna permits over the past four years for his groundfish boats. He even immediately called a “bluefin tuna hot line” (yes, such things exist) to report his catch. “I wanted to sell the fish while it was fresh instead of letting it age on the boat,” he said. “It was a beautiful fish.”

Proceeds of the sale from the fish will be held in an account until the case is resolved, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement. “The matter is still under investigation,” said Monica Allen, deputy director with NOAA Fisheries public affairs. “If it’s determined that there has been a violation, the money will go into the asset forfeiture fund.”

This is insane! The only reason to restrict fishing procedures is if they are making fish or other water organisms in danger of extinction. Is there ANY evidence that tuna is endangered? That wasn’t even mentioned in the article above.

Give the man back his fish, NOAA, and don’t ever pull such a despicable stunt again!

2 thoughts on “Fisherman robbed by our own government!

  1. Meanwhile, on NOAA’s own website, we find:

    NOAA seeks input on enforcement priorities

    Public comment period on draft list of priorities open through January 9

    November 8, 2011

    Today, NOAA released a draft of its enforcement priorities and invited the public to submit comments through January 9. These enforcement priorities are the latest step NOAA is taking to improve its enforcement program, and will help the agency emphasize compliance through better communication with fishermen. Other improvements in the last two years include new leadership, higher-level review of charging decisions, and a new penalty policy to ensure more consistent penalties nationwide.

    “Fair and effective enforcement is essential to our ability to rebuild and protect the public’s fisheries and other natural resources, and to protect the many fishermen who play by the rules,” said Bruce Buckson, director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. “These priorities will help us focus our resources and strategically use our state and federal partnerships to provide the most benefit for marine resources and the American people.”

    NOAA’s jurisdiction spans more than 300,000 square miles of open ocean and 85,000 miles of U.S. coastline, and the agency is charged with enforcing laws and regulations found predominately in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, and the Lacey Act. NOAA will continue to encourage compliance with and enforce all marine statutes and regulations for which it is responsible. To help accomplish its mission, NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement operates joint enforcement agreements with 27 coastal states and territories, and partners with the U.S. Coast Guard.

    The draft priorities were created collaboratively with the fishery management councils, interstate fishery commissions and interested stakeholders, including fishermen, representing public, private and nongovernmental organizations. The draft priorities are available online at and

    The national priorities focus on:

    Helping the fishing industry understand and follow regulations that support sustainable fish stocks and a sustainable fishing industry
    Implementing compliance and enforcement plans for catch share management
    Monitoring fish product imports for compliance with domestic and international laws and regulations
    Protecting marine resources in National Marine Sanctuaries
    Protecting marine mammal and endangered species by enforcing bycatch reduction, gear, and closed area regulations
    Supporting observer programs, which collect critical scientific data about fish stock status, bycatch, and fishery interactions with protected species

    NOAA began working on enforcement priorities during the NOAA National Enforcement Summit in August 2010, which brought together more than 60 stakeholders from the commercial and recreational fishing industries, non-governmental organizations, and state and federal enforcement agencies. Following the summit, NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and NOAA’s Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation solicited further recommendations for priorities by reaching out to fishery management councils, interstate commissions and other stakeholders, inviting comments to be sent to the Special Agents in Charge of NOAA’s six enforcement divisions or to NOAA’s Office of General Counsel for Enforcement and Litigation.

    Comments on NOAA’s Enforcement Priorities may be submitted via email at; via fax at 301-427-2055, attention Acting Deputy Director Tracy Dunn; or by sending hard copy to Acting Deputy Director Tracy Dunn c/o NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, 8484 Georgia Ave., Suite 415, Silver Spring, MD 20910. Comments will not be accepted by phone.

    For a complete list of NOAA enforcement reforms, go to

    NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our other social media channels.

    Well, here’s a chance for my blog readers to sound off to NOAA about the incident I referred to above. GO FOR IT!

  2. Pingback: Guy catches a tuna that weights too much so instead of getting the payday – the Feds sweep the tuna into their hands « THE WORD WARRIOR Bonju Blog

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