WILMINGTON, N.C. – A commercial fisherman pleaded guilty to illegally harvesting and selling Atlantic Striped Bass.
The United States Attorney’s Office announced 71-year-old James Ralph Craddock’s guilty plea on Monday.
Craddock’s federal charges included the illegal harvest and sale of the bass from federal waters off the coast of North Carolina in 2010.
In February of 2010 a special agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) got information that illegal fishing for Atlantic Striped Bass was taking place.
A ban was put in place in 1990 for harvesting the bass from the United States Exclusive Zone (EEZ) which includes waters three to 200 miles seaward of the U.S. coastline.
A patrol vessel eventually intercepted one of 17 commercial trawlers in the EEZ.
When they boarded the vessel 173 Atlantic Striped Bass were found.
The captain of the vessel later admitted to taking the fish from the EEZ.
NOAA then conducted an analysis of electronic data and written reports from other commercial trawlers in the same area.
They found that during the North Carolina 20-day ocean trawl season in January/February of 2010 Craddock, then the Captain of the 74-foot commercial fishing vessel ‘Capt Ralph’ harvested over 12,000 pounds of Atlantic Striped Bass.
The investigation also revealed that Craddock harvested 1,750 pounds of the bass from the EEZ which had an estimated fair-market retail price of about $14,000.
Craddock made false statements to NOAA, concealing the true location of the harvest in his federal vessel trip reports.
Craddock’s sentence hearing is scheduled for March 27, 2017. He faces a max sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.