By Steve Waters
---- — FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A fisherman who tried to illegally sell a giant bluefin tuna that he’d caught while daytime swordfishing off South Florida this past June and the person who was given the tuna to sell have been assessed heavy fines for their transgressions.
NOAA Fisheries issued civil violations totaling $27,500 to the two men.
That’s some expensive sushi.
A Notice of Violation and Assessment of Administrative Penalty was sent to David Fidel, of Boynton Beach, who was fined $12,500 for violating the federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act “by selling or transferring or attempting to sell or transfer, for commercial purposes, an Atlantic tuna, shark or swordfish other than to a dealer that has a valid dealer permit.
“Specifically, on or about June 3, 2013, (Fidel) transferred a giant Atlantic Bluefin tuna landed on board his vessel to a person that did not have a valid dealer permit issued under (Magnuson-Stevens Act regulations) for commercial purposes.
“Moreover, when the giant Atlantic Bluefin tuna was landed aboard (Fidel’s) vessel, (Fidel) had an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Angling Permit, which precludes the sale or transfer of recreationally caught Atlantic Bluefin tuna for commercial purposes.”
The person to whom Fidel transferred the tuna was Mikylo Senkowicz, of Boynton Beach, who did not have a valid permit to sell the tuna and received a Notice of Violation for $15,000 for violating the Magnuson-Stevens Act “by receiving a giant Atlantic Bluefin tuna for commercial purposes from the owner of a vessel not permitted to sell the tuna.
“Specifically, on or about June 3, 2013, (Senkowicz) received a giant Atlantic Bluefin tuna for the purposes of selling said tuna that was landed by the owner of a vessel that was not permitted to sell the tuna.”
According to the notices issued to the two men, law enforcement officers seized $2,260 “from the sale of one Atlantic Bluefin tuna.”
So, essentially, Fidel was fined for trying to sell a tuna he wasn’t allowed to sell and for giving it to a dealer who wasn’t authorized to sell it. Senkowicz was fined for taking a tuna to sell from someone who wasn’t allowed to sell it.
Neither man could be reached by telephone for comment.
According to initial reports, the tuna, which weighed in the neighborhood of 700 pounds, was caught while daytime swordfishing, a popular tactic in South Florida where baits are put on the bottom in 1,500-1,800 feet to catch swordfish.
Fidel’s troubles began when photos of the fish and stories about the catch, and what became of it, were posted online, although they were later removed. Law enforcement officers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission became aware of the catch and seized the tuna. Because Atlantic Giant bluefins are a federally managed species, the FWC worked the case with NOAA Fisheries, which can issue much more expensive fines than the state agency.
The Notice of Violation, or NOVA, states that the violators can ask to have the amount of the penalty modified if they don’t have the ability to pay it. They have 30 days to respond to the NOVAs, during which time they can ask to have the penalty reduced, accept the penalty or request a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the violations and penalty.
Giant bluefins are rare in South Florida waters, but since Fidel’s catch, there have been reports of least a couple of bluefins landed.
The big tunas are prized in Japan for sushi. In the northeastern United States and Canada, where bluefins gather this time of year, buyers will often pay tens of thousands of dollars at the dock for bluefins with high fat contents, which makes them especially appealing to sushi lovers.
Steve Waters writes for the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; wisit the Sun Sentinel at www.sun-sentinel.com
©2013 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.); distributed by MCT Information Services.