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Giant bluefin tuna nets hefty fine for fishermen, buyer

By Steve Waters

Sun Sentinel

LAST UPDATED: 04:50 a.m. HST, Aug 22, 2013

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.

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Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
on August 21,2013 | 01:32PM
ryan02 wrote:
Good. Hopefully the fines will withstand any challenges.
on August 21,2013 | 02:06PM
1keikiokaaina wrote:
Wish they would catch the guys doing wrong here like no license, smaller than allowed, lobster out of season and have eggs, small opihi. The list goes on and on.
on August 21,2013 | 06:14PM
Grimbold wrote:
Soon giant tuna will be extinct together with many other desirable sea life. Fines should be jail time, plenty more money and confiscation of all equipment, boats, gear and such. They then could hire more enforcement because right now violations are rampant and rarely caught.
on August 22,2013 | 05:37AM
saveparadise wrote:
Got caught in Wailua back in the 80's. My friend had only a stringer so he puts the tiny slipper lobster that he speared in my bag. The rangers were waiting on the beach. My friend would not fess up and I ended up taking the citation. $50 and they confiscated my spear, bag, and the little lobster. Wasn't funny at the time but good for laughs every time we sat down and talked story over beers. Rest in peace "Manini Poker". Aloha everyone. Just thought I would share my story.
on August 22,2013 | 09:03AM
juscasting wrote:
Thanks braddah made me laugh, but here's one. We was catching O'ama down pray for sex beach back in the 80's when one lolo came with his illegal throw net, manini brain and big ego and when toss em right on the pile as we stay hooking. I when act like I had to go visit the bushes for do number 1, but decided to put one knife in his tire. How's that for some laughs!
on August 22,2013 | 12:05PM
saveparadise wrote:
You should have number 1 on da lug nuts too!
on August 22,2013 | 03:01PM
nitpikker wrote:
too bad most poachers get away with their crime!! hope they make them pay heavily to deter others.
on August 21,2013 | 11:31PM
cojef wrote:
This was not a poacher incident. He was after swordfish and caught the tuna. If he sold his catch to a certifide(licensed) commercial dealer there would be no fine. The 5th paragraph point this out with regards to the law. Appears when he sold the tuna it constituted a commercial transaction. Probably a lawyer could clear the air on this issue.
on August 22,2013 | 08:01AM
lynnh wrote:
So what is he to do? let that much meat rot or give it away? What a bunch of bull.
on August 22,2013 | 12:01AM
Grimbold wrote:
@lynnh, Release, or can you not think?
on August 22,2013 | 05:39AM
cojef wrote:
lynnh, read my post above. you must live in Arizona or points east of California as my post is 11:11 AM and yours is 12:01AM, an hour difference. Posted Arizona, but could be Utah, Colorado, etc.
on August 22,2013 | 08:05AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Given the gravity of this fisherman's attempt to avoid being caught by selling to an unauthorized seller, his license should be revoked for at least five years.
on August 22,2013 | 08:03AM
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