GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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February 1, 2013

Boat owner disputes illegal 'liner' charge

The owner of the Gloucester trawler Princess Laura, which faces civil charges for using an illegal “net liner” in its trawl net, said Thursday that the Coast Guard mistook some gillnet that had been picked up while hauling back on a groundfishing trip about 100 nautical miles east of Cape Ann for an illegal liner — or double netting system.

Owner Joe DiMaio said the Coast Guard confiscated about 25,000 pounds of mixed groundfish, which was sold at Gloucester’s Buyers and Seller Exchange — or BASE —auction for “fair market value” on Wednesday, with the proceeds held pending final adjudication of the case. Officials could not verify any monetary value of the catch.

Lesli Bales-Sherrrod, spokeswoman for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement in Silver Spring, Md., said, “the size of the catch sold and the amount of money held in a suspense account pending final adjudication and forfeiture proceedings is not available because this matter is under investigation. As you know, we cannot discuss ongoing investigations,” Bales-Sherrod said.

DiMaio maintained Thursday that the crew aboard his boat was not acting illegally.

“The Princess Laura gets all kinds of gillnet gear in its nets,” DiMaio said in a telephone interview. He referred the Times to the captain of the boat, Robby Robbins, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The Coast Guard Sector Boston public affairs office referred questions to the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement in Gloucester. Special Agent in Charge Logan Gregory did not respond to telephone calls about the case, which the spokesman for the Coast Guard said began with a random and routine boarding of the 90-foot Princess Laura Tuesday. Bales-Sherrod said in an email that NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement will produce a case package from which NOAA’s Office of General Counsel’s enforcement section will determine the precise terms of the charges.

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