Carlos Rafael to Plead Guilty to Federal Charges of Fishery Fraud and Cash Smuggling
Carlos Rafael will plead guilty to federal charges of evading fishing quotas and smuggling profits to Portugal as part of a settlement he reached with the government, the U.S. Attorney's office in Massachusetts said Wednesday. Rafael faced one count of conspiracy, 25 counts of lying to federal fishing regulators and one count of bulk cash smuggling. The U.S. Attorney's office provided no further details regarding the plea deal. Rafael is well known in New England as the owner of the largest commercial fishing business in the region, which includes 40 commercial vessels.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana and the Center for Biological Diversity have backed the US government in a lawsuit filed by the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) against the Obama Administration's Seafood Traceability Rule. The groups argue that the rule is vital to help curb illegal and unreported fishing and that it should be upheld even if the Trump administration wants to scrap it. The NFI's lawsuit says there are enough regulations are on the books to ensure that the US seafood supply is safe. “We are specifically suing the government because it improperly and illegally crafted a costly and duplicative rule. In inserting themselves in this lawsuit, it would appear that these outside groups are suggesting they were somehow involved in crafting that rule, a dynamic that raises a whole different set of questions,” said Gavin Gibbons, vice president of communications for the NFI.
In other news, the ADF&G recently completed a multi-year study taking genetic samples from sockeye harvested in the Kodiak Management Area seine fishery. The three-year study found that a significant percentage of the sockeye harvested in that fishery were of Cook Inlet origin in two years. The data, first presented at the Kodiak Board of Fisheries meeting in January, is the first time a mixed-stock analysis was conducted on Kodiak sockeye fisheries and was originally requested by the board as part of a longtime project to study stock composition in the Kodiak Management Area to further develop the management plans.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has offered to compromise with the Washington commission over their differences regarding the Columbia River salmon reforms. The compromise is a response to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's order to renege on the Oregon Commission's decision to allow some commercial gillnet fishing on the river.
Finally, the directors of the marine resources divisions of the five Gulf states visited with senators, representatives and congressional staffers in Washington D.C. this week to discuss a variety of issues that affect fisheries, especially the red snapper fishery. “The meetings in Washington were to discuss the issues that are facing us with the Gulf fisheries. Primarily, that deals with red snapper and federal fisheries management. Rep. Bradley Byrne has reintroduced legislation that would take away some of the strict quotas. That would give us some flexibility, which is what we need to get away from these short seasons and find some other management strategies," said Chris Blankenship, director of the Alabama Marine Resources Division.
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