NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Department of Fish and Game August 20,2002
Capt. Nancy Foley, Special Operations Unit, (916) 996-9003
Formal complaints in nine counties, ranging from Mendocino to the north and Orange County to the south, will be issued this week against operators of 14 Commercial Passenger Fishing Vehicles (CPFVs), commonly known as "party boats," the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) announced Tuesday.
The complaints, scheduled to be filed in San Francisco, Monterey, Mendocino, Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Marin, Sonoma and San Mateo counties, cited violations which included taking specific depleted rockfish during closures, fishing with illegal gear (barbed hooks), failure to keep accurate log books, taking overlimits, and killing pelicans and attempting to kill sea lions. The charges resulted after the DFG, based on complaints turned in from citizens and by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC), investigated 18 CPFVs since the beginning of the year, said Capt. Nancy Foley, head of DFG's Special Operations Unit.
"This investigation was as much to discount those allegations as to investigate possible violations," Foley said. "This was an investigation of 18 of the 408 party boats licensed by the DFG and it is not an indictment on the entire fleet. Passengers who go out on these boats need to feel they can book one of these trips and not be "party" to breaking the law."
On Monday afternoon, Richard Powers, 48, skipper of the New Sea Angler, and his deckhand, Atsushi Yamashita, 33, both of Bodega Bay, were arrested by DFG officers in Bodega Bay and charged with felony conspiracy, reflecting a number of alleged misdemeanor violations from throughout the investigation, said Sonoma County Deputy District Attorney Brooke Halsey. The Powers/Yamashita arrests were the most egregious of the 14 complaints expected to be filed, and will be probably the only felony conspiracy charges in the operation, he said. In addition, two search warrants were issued, one for the New Sea Angler and the other for the Bodega Bay Sport Fishing Center. Wardens found evidence of illegal fishing gear, and 42 fishing license books that are overdue to DFG.
Powers, who was taken to Sonoma County Jail, faces a maximum of three years in prison if convicted of the felony charge, Halsey said. Bail was set at $100,000. Yamashita's bail was set at $75,000.
"The felony status of the charges represent the ongoing nature of the violations over a one-year course of conduct, numerous citizen complaints, and his status as a spokesperson for the industry," said Halsey, who added that Powers is vice-president of the Golden Gate Sport Fishing Association and is also a member of an advisory committee to the PFMC. Powers and Yamashita were charged with taking overlimits of rock fish, which is a depleted fishery, using too many hooks, as well as keeping some prohibited species.
The eight-month operation utilized officers from DFG's Marine Region and Special Operations Unit. Party boat inspections, however, are part of the normal duties of a Fish and Game marine warden and have occurred for decades, Foley said. The recent operation was a different method of inspection which enabled the wardens to see what was happening on the water, not just at the landing.
"Boat operators are not only required to comply with fishing laws, they're responsible for making sure their clients do the same," said Sonke Mastrup, deputy director of DFG's Wildlife Programs. "Anglers pay to have the boat operators ethically follow the regulations. It's for the betterment of the resource and to ensure it remains sustainable for the long-term and to provide a viable resource for sport anglers and California's sport fishing economy."
The 408 licensed party boats landed about 5.8 million pounds of fish in 2001. The main species landed were rockfish, salmon, mackerel, seabass, bonito, barracuda, and tuna. Other species included California scorpionfish, ocean whitefish, sea chubs, croakers and flatfishes.
The information provided by accurate log books, which are required to be submitted to the DFG by the 10th of each month, allow DFG to determine annual catch limits used for the sport fishery. DFG allocates fish between sport and commercial users. Without accurate catch data, the potential to overharvest fish is a major concern and is detrimental to the resource because with overlimits of fish, the annual limits are likely reached well before a fishery closes.
"This undermines our management efforts for maintaining a sustainable fishery resource," Mastrup said.