September 9, 2011 - Federal and state law enforcement agents from a joint investigation by District 8 marine conservation officers and NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement swarmed Money Island this summer to seize oyster boats names in a federal indictment of Camden court. Marine Conservation Officers assisted NMFS Agents in the service of four arrest warrants; the seizure of five NJ licensed oyster boats and the issuance of restraining orders to prohibit the use of five additional NJ licensed oyster vessels. The charges were for the over harvest and under reporting of oysters harvested from NJ state oyster seed beds located in the Delaware Bay between 2004 and 2007; product illegally harvested was valued at $600,000.00. Simultaneous warrants were served by NMFS agents on a seafood dealer located in Delaware with a co-owner and a book keeper being arrested for creating and maintaining false records to hide over harvests by the New Jersey fishermen. The arrests and vessel seizures were the result of a 15-count criminal indictment by a federal grand jury under the Lacey Act. Indictment charges include false reporting, false records of oysters harvested, trafficking in illegally harvested oysters, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to commit those crimes. Six individuals and two related oyster dealers from New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland were charged in the indictments and face maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine for obstruction of justice and five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the remaining counts with corporations facing a fine in the amount that is greater of $500,000.00 or twice the gross gained. The charges have reportedly been settled between the government and the oystermen and the boats released back to duty.
Separately, Marine police and fish and game officials completed a smaller sting operations of a waterman poacher with the assistance of a commercial waterman who docks at Money Island. The name of the poacher was not available.
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