CHINOOK - Nearly 50 law enforcement agents and officers from several federal and state agencies executed search warrants Tuesday morning on vessels at the Port of Chinook and at Bell Buoy Crab Co. in Chinook for fisheries and immigration violations.
Agents of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Service/National Marine Fisheries Service initiated an investigation and executed search warrants for alleged violations of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Lacey Act, and for making false statements to federal agents investigating these violations, according to Mark Oswell, National Media Officer for NOAA Fisheries Services Office for Law Enforcement.
The violations stem from allegedly falsified fish-landing reports (also known as fish tickets) in violation of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and then shipment of products out of state in violation of the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act is a federal statute which prohibits the transportation of wildlife or wildlife products harvested or obtained in violation of federal, state, tribal or foreign laws.
Warrants were served at Bell Buoy and Garda Marie Seafood and the fishing vessels Garda Marie, Renee Maria and Remembrance, all based in Chinook.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers also executed warrants and arrested 16 people - six females, nine males and a male juvenile - for being in the country illegally. They were transported to Portland for processing where they will be put in removal proceedings and sent back to their country of origin, according to Lori Haley in the ICE public affairs office in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
People from Mexico will be eligible for "voluntary removal", Haley said, and may leave the country voluntarily without being deported. "It depends on the person," she said. "It is an option."
Assisting at the scene were officers from the FBI, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcment and the Coast Guard.
As she was being led away in handcuffs and ankle chains, a young Hispanic girl was heard to say, "I don't want to go to Mexico."
No one from the port or from Bell Buoy was available for comment Tuesday. The firm was purchased in 1999 from Ocean Beauty Seafoods by local fishermen Steve Gray, Jim Kemmer, Dwight Eager and Dean Ellsborth.