Mississippi restaurants fined for buying illegal seafood
Four Mississippi restaurants were recently fined by the state after purchasing seafood illegally from recreational fisherman.
After a two-month investigation, the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources issued criminal misdemeanor charges against restaurants that included Harbor House Steamer in Diamondhead, as well as Phoenicia Gourmet, Woody's Roadside, and Val's Sports Bar and Grill in Ocean Springs.
The restaurants were fined between USD 100 (EUR 85.50) and USD 500 (EUR 427.50) each.
“It harms the commercial fishermen, but also impacts the resources. When resources aren’t tracked by us, we can’t manage the quota, so it raises sustainability issues,” Patrick Carron, criminal investigator for the DMR, told SeafoodSource.
Commercial fishermen have to pay for costly commercial licenses, and there are restrictions on where and when they can fish that differ from recreational fishermen, he added.
DMR launched the investigation after receiving several complaints of restaurants buying fish from recreational fishermen, which is illegal in Mississippi. Some restaurants only purchased small amounts of fish, while others said, "‘send me everything you can catch’,” according to Carron.
However, the problem was not as widespread as DMR initially anticipated, Carron said. “Our noncompliance was around 20 percent. Still, we strive for full compliance, so we do what we can to educate people."
Carron declined to list the species involved in the illegal sales. The DMR is still tracking down which recreational fishermen were involved in the illegal sales, and expects to bring charges against those responsible once the agency’s investigation is complete, Carron said.
The illegal sales are economically motivated, since restaurants are able to buy fish for around half the cost of what they would pay for them commercially, Carron said. Meanwhile, the recreational fishermen are typically trying to make a little extra money for their boats or for gas, he added.