Man gets probation for illegal fishing of finfish in Cay Sal Bank

Operation Targeting Illegal Fishing in The Bahamas Nets Conviction of Florida Keys Man and Vessel Transfer

Small fishing seiner goes to fish in coastal waters. Sea of Japan.

Miami, Fl. – Henry J. Danzig, 57, of Tavernier, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Key West by United States Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow, for illegally harvesting commercial quantities of demersal finfish from the vicinity of Cay Sal Bank, in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and  transporting the fish into the United States in violation of the Lacey Act.  Demersal finfish are those that live and feed on ocean bottoms.

Magistrate Judge Snow sentenced Danzig to a period of probation of one year and a $25 special assessment.  In addition, Danzig was ordered to make restitution to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas for his illegal harvesting activities, by forfeiting a newly constructed and outfitted 30’ Contender Tournament boat, which will be employed by the Royal Bahamas Defense Force to prevent, deter, and eliminate illegal and unreported fishing within the archipelagic waters of the Bahamas.

According to the Information to which the defendant pled guilty on April 26, 2021, a Joint Factual Statement filed by the parties, and statements in court, on May 9, 2020, Danzig, and four others were intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard in the Atlantic Ocean outside of Tavernier, in the Florida Keys, while they were returning from Bahamian waters. Danzig and his companions were aboard Danzig’s 39’ Contender fishing vessel, the “Bodacious.” On boarding the vessel, the Coast Guard and found and seized 167 reef fish, totaling approximately 529 pounds. At the time, Bahamian waters were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Additional investigation revealed that Danzig was co-owner of the City Hall Café, in Tavernier, FL, through which some illegally sourced Bahamian fish had been sold on prior occasions.

The Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Section 3372(a)(2), prohibits the import, export, transport, sale, receipt, acquisition, or purchase of any fish in foreign commerce which was taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any foreign law.

Statute Law of the Bahamas, Revised Edition 2010, Fisheries Resources (Jurisdiction & Conservation), Chapter 244, Part V, Section 70(1), in effect at the time of the conduct at issue, prohibited the export of any fishery product or resource from the Bahamas, except under and in accordance with the terms of a license granted by the Government of the Bahamas, and after presentation of the product or resource to a fisheries inspector.

According to the Joint Factual Statement, neither Danzig nor those associated with him in the charged conduct possessed a lawfully issued license from the Bahamas, to take, export or sell any fishery product or resource fish from Bahamian waters.

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Operation Bahamarama is a joint enforcement effort by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office for Law Enforcement (OLE), the United States Coast Guard (USCG) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) to specifically target Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing to and from the waters of the United State Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and in conformity with the Port States Measure Agreement (PSMA), an international agreement designed to target IUU fishing. In conjunction with the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the Bahamas Defense Force (BDF), air and marine assets, and intelligence gathering efforts were instrumental in the success of this particular mission. Information had been received by NOAA Special Agents regarding Florida-origin IUU fishing in the Bahamas, resulting in enforcement efforts focused on known violators.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Manny Antonaras, Special Agent in Charge, NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division, made the announcement.

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“The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to helping protect the fishery resources of our neighbors in the Bahamas from poachers and others who seek to profit at the expense of scarce natural resources,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gonzalez.  “We will prosecute those who violate conservation laws intended to promote and secure sustainable fisheries.”

“Preventing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a high priority for NOAA OLE,” said Manny Antonaras, Assistant Director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, Southeast Division.  “OLE will continue to cooperate with The Bahamas to help combat IUU fishing through bilateral enforcement operations, setting an example for effective fisheries enforcement cooperation.”

Mr. Gonzalez commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the NOAA Office for Enforcement, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission which brought the matter to a successful conclusion. The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.

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