LA Shrimp Task Force Seeks Tougher Penalties

HOUMA, LA (AP) — State officials and district attorneys continue to hammer out stricter penalties for shrimpers fishing out of season.

         At its meeting Wednesday in Houma, The Courier’s Sean Ellis reports the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force continued discussions on its plans to get legislation passed to strengthen the penalties for violators. Currently, shrimpers face fines, revocation of gear licenses, community service and potential jail time if accused of multiple violations.

         Previous discussions centered on a shrimper's vessel licenses being seized, but that has since shifted to a vessel monitoring system being equipped on boats found to be in violation. However, a monitoring system can only be required upon conviction.

         "My concern with the date of conviction is you're going to have an individual who's going to do this multiple times," task force member Andrew Blanchard said. "He's going to have an attorney on the cellphone. Soon as he gets caught, he's going to delay. Next year in March, he might be getting a court date."

         Another suggestion was to use the language already in laws that allow Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries agents to seize a license in the field. Agents can seize a license if it can be proven it was obtained fraudulently, but it was suggested the language be expanded to include other violations.

         "We only have a 45-day season. If a man gets caught and he's on the edge of the line unintentionally, this is a livelihood," task force member Acy Cooper Jr. said. "That's where he makes his money. We wait all year to work this little bit of time. Something simple happens like that then you're going to put him in a bad position."

         Task force chairman Clint Guidry said the first couple weeks of the season is when many shrimpers make the majority of their money and being held up for any reason could result in a significant loss of income.

         "That could be 40, 50 percent of his yearly earnings gone," he said.

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