5 Maine fishermen plead guilty to falsifying herring catch

According to case documents, the fishermen would sell a legal amount of herring above board and an extra amount under the table
A pile of Atlantic herring
A pile of Atlantic herring | Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries/Calvin Alexander
2 Min

Five fishermen who were charged with being part of a multi-year scheme of falsifying herring catch and selling unreported herring pleaded guilty soon after a federal trial began. 

The federal trial began on 7 March and was expected to last for nine days, with Glenn Robbins of Eliot, Maine; Neil Herrick of Rockland, Maine; Stephen Little of Warren, Maine; Ethan Chase of Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Jason Parent of Owls Head, Maine; and Western Sea Inc. all charged with conspiracy, mail fraud, and obstruction of justice as part of their efforts to falsify their herring catch, the Penobscot Bay Pilot reported. Robbins, in particular, owned the F/V Western Sea – a Maine herring seiner.

According to the Courier-Gazette, from June 2016 through September 2019, the Western Sea and its crew underreported the number of herring caught and sold fish to buyers who also underreported how much fish they had received. The fishermen were then paid cash for the extra fish that they caught. Herring regulations in the state of Maine require herring fishers submit an electronic report of total catch before landing. 

Now, the Portland Press Herald reported that the five fishermen have all pleaded guilty to lesser offenses in a plea deal with federal prosecutors. With the deal, 59 counts against the fishermen were dismissed for lesser charges.

Robbins pleaded guilty to submitting false information to the U.S. Secretary of Commerce – which overseas NOAA Fisheries – on the catch and sale of herring, as well as falsifying information to the secretary of the treasury. 

Chase, Herrick, Little, and Parent also pleaded guilty to submitting false information and failing to pay income taxes.

“This type of unscrupulous and unlawful fishing alleged in the indictment returned by the grand jury directly affects the economic benefit of law-abiding fishermen and fishing communities,” NOAA Office of Law Enforcement Director James Landon said in a release. “We will continue to help bring to justice those who are proven to have violated U.S. fishing laws and regulations to help ensure the sustainability of our living marine resources while also maximizing economic benefit.”

According to the Press Herald, the plea agreements carry a maximum sentence of a year in prison, a fine of up to USD 100,000 (EUR 91,800), and up to one year of supervised release – with the possibility that none of the defendants see jail time.

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