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Arrest Made in Undercover Fish Buying Investigation
SEADRIFT, Texas — Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens today arrested a Seadrift man on charges of commercial possession of over three times the possession limit of red drum, a Class A Misdemeanor. A warrant is outstanding for another Seadrift resident.
The charges come as the result of a two-year undercover investigation of complaints that some Calhoun County seafood buyers were purchasing fish from unlicensed fishermen and introducing them into the commercial market.
As a result of the investigation, a total of 177 violations were documented against individuals at five Calhoun County seafood wholesalers and one Victoria restaurant.
The covert investigation confirmed long-standing suspicions of illegal fish sales and commercial buying of red drum and spotted seatrout in the area.
The investigation spawned a second undercover operation in North Texas, which resulted in citations of individuals at more than 30 restaurants and businesses last week.
“All Calhoun County fish dealers purchasing directly from the commercial fisherman were approached in this investigation,” said TPWD Capt. Rex Mayes. “Many of those buyers acted responsibly by turning away the covert officers. Others did not.”
Violations involved spotted seatrout and flounder, in addition to red drum. The three species are mainstays for recreational anglers on the Texas coast.
“The sport fisherman is being exploited by buyers who are illegally marketing those species most sought,” said Mayes.
Mayes said the illegal traffic in fin fish also hurts commercial fishermen and businesses that abide by the rules.
“When unlawful fish enter the market, it lowers the prices,” he said. “Wholesalers and retailers who operate legally are unfairly disadvantaged.”
Mayes said the buyers also failed to report catches to the state. Buyers who purchase aquatic products directly from commercial fishermen are required to maintain cash sales receipts and report sales to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The harvest and economic data is required so that TPWD can better manage the fishery and maximize the economic benefit to the state.
“Unreported catches undermine the data that the Department depends on to regulate the industry,” Mayes said.
TPWD’s Special investigations Unit worked with prosecutors of the District Attorney’s Offices in Calhoun and Victoria County to obtain evidence for the cases.
A Class A Misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not less than $500 or more than $4,000, punishment in jail not to exceed one year, or both fine and confinement.
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