In 1984, Congress passed the Atlantic Striped Bass Conservation Act, recognizing that “Atlantic striped bass are of historic commercial and recreational importance and economic benefit to Atlantic coastal States and to the Nation,” and that it “is in the national interest to implement effective procedures and measures to provide for effective inter-jurisdictional conservation and management of this species.” Since 1990, the Secretary of Commerce has imposed a moratorium on fishing for Striped Bass within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the zone where the U.S. and other coastal nations have jurisdiction over economic and resource management. The moratorium makes it unlawful to fish for or harvest Striped Bass in the EEZ. The moratorium also makes it unlawful to retain any Striped Bass that were taken in or from the EEZ.
The Lacey Act makes it unlawful for any person to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire or purchase any fish and wildlife taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of any law or regulation of the United States, or to attempt to do so. Such conduct constitutes a felony crime if the defendant knowingly engaged in conduct involving the sale, offer to sell or intent to sell fish with a market value in excess of $350, knowing that the fish were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of, or in a manner unlawful under, a law or regulation of the United States. Under the Lacey Act, it is a “sale” of fish or wildlife for any person, for money or other consideration, to offer or provide guiding, outfitting, or other services.
Each of the five charter fishing boat captains face charges that they sold charter fishing trips and harvested Striped Bass from the EEZ.
Jeffrey Adams, captain of the F/V Providence II, and his corporation Adams Fishing Adventures, are charged with conspiracy, trafficking in illegally harvested Striped Bass in violation of the Lacey Act and making false statements to law enforcement officers. The indictment alleges that, between March 4, 2009, and Feb. 9, 2011, the defendants sold charter fishing trips to harvest Striped Bass illegally from the EEZ. The indictment also alleges that, as part of the conspiracy, Adams and others would puncture the air bladder of Striped Bass and, if contacted by law enforcement, would throw illegally-harvested Striped Bass into the sea in hopes of avoiding detection. Adams is also charged with making a false statement to law enforcement officers regarding the location where his charter fishing clients harvested Striped Bass.
Raymond Carroll Webb, captain of the F/V Spider Webb, and his corporation Peake Enterprisees, Ltd., were charged with trafficking in illegally harvested Striped Bass and Destruction of Evidence for actions taken during a Striped Bass charter fishing trip on Feb. 12, 2011.
David Dwayne Scott, captain of the Stoney’s Kingfisher, was charged with trafficking in illegally harvested Striped Bass and destruction of evidence for actions taken during a Striped Bass charter fishing trip on Feb. 7, 2009.
William W. “Duby” Lowery, captain of the Anna Lynn, was charged with trafficking in illegally harvested Striped Bass and destruction of evidence for actions taken during a Striped Bass charter fishing trip on Jan. 15, 2010.
Nolan L. Agner, captain of the Flat Line, and his corporation, Agner, Inc., were charged with trafficking in illegally harvested Striped Bass for actions taken during a Striped Bass charter fishing trip on Jan. 16, 2011.
If convicted, the individual defendants face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and a $250,000 fine per count, as well as forfeiture of the fishing vessels used during the commission of the crimes. If convicted, the corporate defendants face a maximum penalty of a $500,000 fine per count, as well as forfeiture of the fishing vessels used during the commission of the crimes.
The case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fisheries, Office for Law Enforcement, and the Virginia Marine Police with assistance from the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau, Norfolk Office. The case is being prosecuted by Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
An indictment is a formal accusation and is not proof of guilt. Defendants are presumed innocent until and unless they are found guilty.