Carlos Rafael vessels sink while tied together at Massachusetts wharf

Two vessels owned by imprisoned fishing magnate Carlos Rafael have sunk while tied to a dock in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

The vessels will remain submerged under 25 feet of water until at least Tuesday, 6 February, when a lifting machine is scheduled to arrive at Homer’s Wharf, authorities said. 

The New Bedford Fire Department was dispatched to the wharf around 1 a.m. on the morning of Monday, 5 February, after U.S. Coast Guard officials received emergency position radio beacons transmitted from two of Rafael’s vessels – F/V Dinah Jane and F/V Nemesis. No one was on board the vessels when they sank, reported South Coast Today.

According to Ed Anthes Washburn, the executive director of the Harbor Development Commission, one vessel pulled the other down because they were tied together. Determining anything more about the root cause for the sinking will have to wait until both vessels have been fully raised from the water, Fire Chief Michael Gomes told the newspaper. 

Upon arriving at the wharf, New Bedford Fire deployed about 400 feet of oil containment boom, and sent divers down to plug the vents on one of the vessels to stop fuel oil from leaking into the surrounding harbor. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission were also present at the wharf on Monday. 

A fisherman interviewed near the docks by SouthCoast Today on 5 February said that the 67-foot Nemesis had been undergoing repairs for about a year. 

Meanwhile, 65-foot Dinah Jane has already been making headlines after Massachusetts Environmental Police seized 120 pounds of scallops from the vessel on Sunday, 28 January, deeming the catch as excessive and over the limit allotted to the boat. Inspectors were allegedly told by the crew several times that no additional catch was aboard the vessel after its haul had been offloaded. However, buried under the ice in the fish hold was an additional 120 pounds of scallops, said Major Pat Moran, an officer with the environmental police force stationed near to New Bedford, Massachusetts. The confiscated scallops are now being held the National Marine Fisheries Service, which will determine their final destination.

Carlos Seafoods Inc. has yet to comment on the scallop seizure and the sinking of part of its fleet.

Carlos “Codfather” Rafael is currently serving a 46-month prison sentence, which began in November 2017, for falsifying fishing quotas, bulk cash smuggling, and tax evasion, and his groundfishing fleet has been sidelined. Rafael has been leveled with several penalties, including the forfeiture of four vessels and their accompanying permits. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is also working to revoke 38 fishing permits from Rafael as part of its latest civil action against him. Through the action, the agency said it hopes to impose a USD 983,528 (EUR 790,583) fine on Rafael, revoke the seafood dealer permit issued to Carlos Seafood Inc., and deny all future applications for permits submitted by Rafael.

Photo credit: Peter Pereira / The Standard-Time / SCMG


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