The federal government has fined the owner of a Spanish-flagged fishing boat $5 million for fishing in U.S. territorial waters without a permit.
It was the largest civil penalty ever assessed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency said.
The Albacora Uno, owned by Albacora S.A., was charged June 2 with 67 counts of fishing inside U.S. waters without a valid permit, NOAA announced last week.
Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, foreign-flagged vessels are prohibited from catching, taking or harvesting fish, or supporting those actions, in U.S. waters without a permit issued by the United States.
The vessel deployed 67 fish-aggregating devices within the 200-mile U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone around Howland and Baker islands and Jarvis Islands between November 2007 and October 2009, NOAA said.
The case resulted from an investigation conducted by NOAA Office of Law Enforcement agents who boarded the vessel when it docked in March in Pago Pago, American Samoa, and discovered documentation of the Albacora’s activities.
Money from the fine will be used to support the conservation and management objectives under a marine conservation plan developed for the region by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Council.
"This money has the potential to do a lot of good for the region, in particular our territories of American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, which are all struggling economically, in helping them sustainably develop their fishing industry and infrastructure," said Alexa Cole, NOAA senior enforcement attorney for the Pacific Islands region.
The Albacora agreed to stay out of U.S. waters, even to just pass through, for three years.