Informant tipped off investigators ahead of 1500-lb fish seizure

SCDNR officers seized more than 1,000 pounds of fish from a vessel operating without the proper licenses and permits. (Photo by SCDNR)

More than 1,000 pounds of fish were seized from a fishing vessel in Little River because it was operating without proper licenses and permits, according to the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources.

In September, a confidential information tipped off investigators that a vessel may be operating without proper permits, prompting an investigation by the SCDNR, according to the incident report.

SCDNR officials boarded the vessel on Oct. 27 and asked the men on board to produce federal permits for snapper/grouper and coastal migratory pelagics, but the men were unable to do so.

One of the men told SCDNR they estimated there was between 1,800 and 2000 pounds of fish on board.

Officers determined about 25 percent had already been unloaded and iced for sale, and another 240 pounds had been delivered to a local restaurant, where "staff took possession of the illegal catch unknowingly."

"Once officers seized the fish, they advised the men that because the amount seized was so large, they would attempt to sell them to a wholesale buyer instead of holding them until after the trial, a common practice in cases involving amounts of fish this large. After several failed attempts to sell the seized fish at fair market value to other wholesalers, the fish were eventually sold to the owner of the vessel, who possessed a wholesale dealers license and Horry County business license," SCDNR wrote in a release Monday.

The money paid to the SCDNR will be held until after the trail, and will then be forfeited to the agency if the men are found guilty.

Officers also reported finding out-of-season cobia that was "hidden with intent," as well as yellow snapper found hidden in the sleeping quarters, the incident report states.

Approximately 1,500 pounds of fish was seized, including what was delivered to the restaurant.

One of the two men on board was issued two citations, while the other was issued three. Their fines totaled $3,000.

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