The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday put the skippers of illegal fishing charters on notice that leaving the dock could cost them more than $10,000 in fines.
The USCG said in a statement that it is actively investigating and issuing violations to owners of vessels offering unlicensed charter services in New Jersey and Delaware. Unlike large party boats, charter vessels can generally be of any size, though most are center consoles or sportfishers whose captains carry so-called “six pack” licenses, allowing them to carry a six-man party up to 100 miles offshore.
Unlicensed vessel operators, the USCG said, may not be aware that using their boat to take members of the public out for hire is illegal and may view it as a way to supplement income, however it is against the law. Under federal law, if a vessel is operated “in violation of applicable laws and regulations,” the owner, charterer, managing operator, agent, master and individual in charge may be liable for a civil penalty up to $10,519 per violation per day.
“People paying to take an excursion on the water deserve safe vessels operated by properly licensed individuals,” said Capt. Scott Anderson, Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Sector Delaware Bay, which oversees operations in Ocean County. “Vessel operators who skirt the regulations undercut legitimate licensed operators and put their passengers at risk. Paying customers can play a key role in keeping our waters safe by asking to see a license before departing, and they can ask to see the inspection sticker if vessels are carrying more than six passengers.”
The USCG urged anyone in the boating and fishing communities to report any suspicious operations to 215-271-4807 or email PhillyIO@uscg.mil. Those interested in operating charters who have questions about regulations are asked to call Sector Delaware Bay Marine Inspections at 215-908-9827 or DomesticVessels@uscg.mil.