NOAA has settled its civil case against the “Codfather” Carlos Rafael and his fishing captains. Rafael pleaded guilty in 2017 to falsifying fish quotas, tax evasion, and conspiracy.
The terms of the settlement require Rafael to permanently stop all commercial fishing except for scalloping by 31 December, and to cease scalloping by 31 March, 2020. He must also sell all limited access federal fishing permits and vessels he owns or controls by 31 December, through transactions reviewed and approved by NOAA, and relinquish the seafood dealer permit issued to his company, Carlos Seafood, by 1 September. In addition, Rafael must pay a civil penalty of USD 3,010,644 (EUR 2,714,239)
“U.S. fisheries are among the most sustainable in the world. That achievement is based on dynamic management and by honest fishermen following the rules,” Chris Oliver, assistant administrator of NOAA fisheries, said. “Today’s settlement of the government’s civil case against Carlos Rafael accomplishes NOAA’s chief objective of permanently removing Mr. Rafael from participation in federal fisheries.”
The civil settlement also comes with conditions for 17 of Rafael’s former fishing captains. They will be required to serve suspensions of their operating permits, “during which they cannot be aboard a federally permitted vessel while it is at sea or offloading,” according to a NOAA release. The suspensions have varying periods based on the violations committed by the captain.
In addition, they must also serve probationary periods ranging between one and three years, depending on the severity of their violations. During this period, the captains will be subject to “additional monitoring and reporting requirements."
If any of the captains are caught intentionally, or recklessly, violating rules during the probationary period, they will be permanently banned from commercial fishing.
Rafael’s penalty is on top of the criminal sentence for his conduct: a sentence of 46 months in prison, a roughly USD 300,000 (EUR 270,488) fine, and three years of supervised release. He also forfeited two fishing vessels.
The settlement frees up other vessels that had been literally and figuratively tied up due to the ongoing legal issues.
“The settlement also clears the way for Mr. Rafael’s fishing assets that have been tied up in this litigation to be returned to productive use,” Oliver said. “This settlement also holds accountable the vessel captains who now face suspensions, probationary periods, additional monitoring and reporting requirements, and the threat of a lifetime ban from the industry if they intentionally violate federal fisheries regulations again. It also serves as a reminder that no one is exempt from the rules.”
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Neal Wellons