Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife Commercial Licenses: A Criminal Defense and Administrative Law Lawyer’s Prospective.
WSDFW Commercial Licenses: Criminal and Administrative Problems.
Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife issue commercial licenses ranging from the harvesting of fish and shellfish to game farm licenses and taxidermist licenses. When going into a fish and wildlife related business, it is extremely important that due diligence is done to be properly licensed and once the business is established, it is important to maintain the required standards. Call our team of lawyers if you are being contacted because, whether the contact is friendly or not, it means you are being subjected to an investigation.
Types of Commercial Licenses for Fish & Shellfish
The most common types of licenses are seafood related, which include both vessels as well as fish and shellfish farms on private land. Some types of fish and shellfish have an open entry for commercial licenses when using a specific method of harvesting, meaning there is no wait list or limitation on the number of licenses currently issued. For example, an open entry commercial license form is available for someone who wants to fish for anchovies using a qualifying “lampara” net. Other types of fish and shellfish have limited entry, which means no new licenses may be issued. In some instances, existing licenses are transferable between private parties. The licenses required to start salmon charter fishing are one example of transferable limited entry licenses. Angler permits specify the maximum number of persons that may fish from a charter boat trip. These permits can be purchased and transferred between private parties. Salmon charter permits are also transferable and will be required in certain waters or alternatively a food fish guide license, depending on where the boat intends to fish. If you have questions of whether an existing license is transferable, you can contact the License Division at (360) 902-2464.
Criminal Commercial Fishing Charges & License Suspensions
Failing to properly follow fishing regulations can result in criminal charges and can also cause serious problems if you wish to be a part of a commercial fishing business in the future. For example, illegally running a charter boat or acting as a guide without a proper license, can result in a gross misdemeanor charge. Similarly, it is a gross misdemeanor to use a commercial fishing vessel as a charter or recreational fishing vessel on the same day it is used for commercial fishing or shellfish harvesting. Call our criminal defense attorneys immediately if you have a problem.
What is especially problematic for commercial fishermen are qualifying commercial fishing violations. For example, if convicted of two or more qualifying violations within a three-year period, an individual can be suspended for up to a year from being able to work with a commercial fishery. Once there has been a notice of suspension, the commercial fishery license cannot be transferred to another person or be used by another operator during the time of the suspension if the person who is suspended is also the owner of the commercial fishery license. If a violation is egregious enough, the Director of Fish & Wildlife can move for a suspension after only one qualifying violation.
If a commercial fisher has received notice of a license revocation or suspension due to a qualifying commercial fishing violation, that individual has the right to appeal the suspension to a review committee. We highly advise using our lawyers for this process. The review committee consist of 5 voting members and 4 alternates. Two of the voting members are appointed by the director and may be Fish & Wildlife employees. The remaining three members and alternates are peer-group members – individuals who own a commercial fishing license. An appeal must be filed within 31 days otherwise you lose the right. Once appealed, the suspension is put on hold until there is a final decision by the review committee. Essentially, the license will be suspended after 31 days of a second qualifying violation conviction or after the committee’s decision, whichever is later. The license holder must first get a vote in his or her favor by a majority vote (3 out of 5 voting members) but 2 out of the 5 work for Fish & Wildlife which is the agency trying to suspend the license. This could be an indication of a strict review committee. It is also important to keep in mind that even if you obtain a favorable ruling, it is not binding. The Director of Fish & Wildlife can choose to follow the recommendation of the committee or can ignore the committee’s recommendation and keep the original suspension in place. Further discussion of this point should be done in person in our offices.
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 you say to an officer can then later be used against you in a case. Thus, the less said to such personnel, the better. Follow our advice for any criminal investigation and contact our legal team of lawyers to immediately to assure your rights and freedom are protected.