WARRENTON - NOAA, the federal fisheries agency, has charged Warrenton fisherman Denniss Sturgell with allegedly making three fishing trips without a functioning vessel monitoring system, and with failure to declare what type of fishing gear he was using on those trips.

In its charging document, NOAA alleges Sturgell, who operates under a federal fishing permit issued by NOAA, made the trips September 2007 and that he is the owner and operator of the fishing vessel Sea Sick II.

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the federal law that governs federal fishing operations off the nation's coasts, requires the gear declaration and, to track vessel locations, the monitoring system.

An operating vessel monitoring system unit is required on board all vessels holding federal fishing permits for the Pacific groundfish fishery, when fishing in state or federal waters.

The VMS program uses global positioning system tracking technology to monitor fishing vessel location for enforcement of offshore areas where commercial fishing is restricted.

NOAA's Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement initiated an investigation of the Sea Sick II after they noted the vessel was not operating its onboard VMS unit during September 2007. The investigation determined that the vessel landed 35,000 pounds of groundfish from those trips, worth nearly $75,000.

Based on the investigation, NOAA issued a four-count Notice of Violation and Assessment, and is seeking to impose a $116,000 fine for the alleged illegal fishing. Sturgell has 30 days to request a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge in regard to these civil penalties.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources. Visit http://www.noaa.gov.

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