Commercial Fishing | License Violations: A Defense Law Lawyer’s Prospective.
Commercial Fishing: The Criminal and Administrative Problems of the 21st Century in Washington.
Commercial Fishing Violations
Just as there are numerous regulations pertaining to recreational fishing, there are also a number of different regulations governing commercial fishing. It is vital commercial fishermen are familiar with these regulations because criminal convictions aside, a conviction can also impact a commercial license and the ability to obtain one in the future. For example, if you are convicted of two or more qualifying commercial fishing violations within a three year period, you may be suspended for up to a year.
One example of a qualifying violation is commercial Fishing without a license. This charge is when an individual fishes, takes, or delivers any type of fish or shellfish for a commercial purpose and does not have or is a licensed operator designated as an alternate operator on a fishery or delivery license. A violation as described is a second degree violation which is a gross misdemeanor. If the value of the fish in question is above $250 or it was taken from a closed area, then the charge would be commercial fishing without a license in the first degree which is classified as a class C felony.
Another qualifying violation is commercial Fishing with unlawful gear or methods citation, which is a gross misdemeanor. This charge is when an individual does have a commercial license but fishes in a manner using gear or a method contrary to regulations. Similarly, if a person takes, fishes for, or possesses shellfish using unlawful gear, they can be charged or cited for unlawful use of shellfish gear for commercial purposes which is also a gross misdemeanor.
Good Samaritans who find illegal shellfish gear in Washington waters must also be careful about trying to remove it themselves. Unless they have a valid crab pot removal permit and are in the process of transporting crab pots as a part of the Dungeness crab pot removal program, they can be charged with unlawful use of shellfish gear for commercial purposes if caught having the illegal equipment in their possession. If illegal equipment is found, it is best to contact Fish & Wildlife first before attempting removal.
Another example of a qualifying commercial violation would be a specific type of violation of commercial fishing area or time. What is interesting is a time violation is specifically listed as a qualifying violation but not taking from a closed area. Both taking fish and shellfish from a closed area, at a closed time, or in another way not conforming to a special restriction is a criminal charge under RCW 77.15.550. Any of these acts would be a second degree violation of commercial fishing area or time. A first degree violation would involve knowledge that the area or time for fishing was closed and the fish or shellfish in question was valued $250 or more. A first degree violation is a class C felony.
Remember, if you are being contacted by law enforcement or a State agent, there is no such thing as a friendly discussion: their role is to investigate potential crimes and collect evidence. Anything said to an officer can later be used against you in a criminal trial. Thus, the less said to such personnel, the better. Follow our advice for any criminal investigation and contact the lawyers of our legal team immediately to assure your rights and freedom are protected.