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Operation Reel-It-In reveals illegal charter vessel activities and fishing violations

Posted at 3:08 PM, Aug 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-23 12:53:49-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Operation Reel-It-In was conducted to promote the safety of charter vessel operations.

From August 14-17, Coast Guard Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi, along with Texas Parks and Wildlife and the NOAA Office for Law Enforcement deployed air, land and sea assets to identify illegal activities happening on charter vessels.

A total of 61 law enforcement boardings were carried out from Port O'Connor to South Padre Island.

The results were revealed Thursday morning at a media event hosted at the United States Coast Guard Sector/Air Station Corpus Christi.

Results from the operation included 18 vessels with fisheries violations, ten vessels with safety violations, a captain operating an uninspected passenger vessel without proper documentation, and three ships that had their voyage terminated.

Ten federal fisheries violations were referred for federal prosecution. The most abhorrent of the violations included individuals catching, killing, and filleting two green sea turtles.

Multiple citations were issued for the illegal taking of an endangered species. The case will be referred over to NOAA.

"The penalties under the Endangered Species Act, they have both civil and criminal penalties," says Charles Tyer, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement. "And the fines are up to $50,000 per violation or one year in jail or both."

Another case being referred to NOAA is a Federal Closed Season Red Snapper case. Game wardens inspected 17 whole Red Snapper and ten bags of fillets aboard a recreational vessel coming in through the Port Aransas Jetties.

At Thursday's media event, representatives from each agency discussed how the public could ensure safety on a charter vessel which begins with proper inspection.

"We would rather go through the steps of making sure that everybody is properly licensed and inspected then have to go out and conduct a search and rescue case for something that could have been avoided from the beginning," says Lt. Richard Gonzalez, U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard wants people to be aware that charters being hired out should be licensed through the Coast Guard.