US court hands lobster poachers $30m fine


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
June 16, 2013

A U.S. judge has ordered three men to pay the South African government USD 29.5 million (EUR 22.1 million) in restitution for the unlawful harvesting of Western Cape rock lobster over a 14-year period.

The order by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York on Friday makes this the largest known restitution order to South Africa in terms of environmental crime.

It is also the largest restitution in a Lacey Act case in history. The Lacey Act is a federal statute that makes it a crime to import into the U.S. any fish, wildlife or plants taken in violation of state or foreign law.

Kaplan said a credit of more than USD 7 million (EUR 5.2 million) of the settlement had already been paid by the men to South Africa as part of a separate criminal case.

The order, based on a recommendation by US magistrate Andrew Peck in August last year that the men be made to pay $54.8-million (EUR 41.1 million) in restitution, was yesterday applauded by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).

Spokeswoman Palesa Mokomele said: "We welcome this decision. It is a massive coup, not only for DAFF but the whole country, because it will send out a strong message to poachers that they will be punished if they break the law.

"It sends out a message to poachers that the authorities are watching, and action will be taken. The amount is not as much as the recommendation, but it is still highly significant.”

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