Carlos Rafael Pleads Guilty; Up to 13 New Bedford Vessels Could be Seized by Government
Carlos Rafael, owner of one of the largest fishing fleets in New England, pled guilty in Federal District Court in Boston yesterday to 27 counts lodged against him by the Dept. of Justice for fishery fraud, conspiracy and cash smuggling. Most of the charges have sentences of up to 5 years in prison with 2 of the offenses having penalties of up to 20 years. But there is also a forfeiture clause. For the mislabeling and false reporting charges, the US attorney says that on conviction of one or more of the false reporting offenses, the vessels and permits are to be forfeited. These vessels represent the majority of the active vessels fishing for Carlos Rafael in New Bedford. The fate of the vessels and especially the fishing permits is of great concern in New Bedford.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced Northern shrimp quotas for the upcoming season, and the news was just as bad as the industry in Newfoundland feared. The quota for Area 6 was slashed 62 percent. Area six is the largest inshore shrimp fishing area in Newfoundland and the basis for much of the cooked and peeled inshore industry. The Association of Seafood Producers (ASP) said the federal cuts to shrimp quotas for the inshore fleet will have a devastating impact on the industry, including all shrimp plants.
In other news, monthly shrimp landings from the Gulf of Mexico in February were down from last month and from the same time last year. Traders say they are anxiously waiting new season production with inventories low and market prices high. Spring season shrimp fishing is at least a month and a half away, and contingent on the size of the shrimp in the waters.
Meanwhile, Market demand for Vietnamese pangasius in China over the last couple of years is up and now officials say they will issue a list of approved suppliers and ban imports of fish with quality problems. The Chinese also plan to strengthen pangasius traceability.
Finally, President Trump signed two executive orders aimed at combating foreign trade abuses. The Commerce Department and US trade representative will compile a thorough accounting of the US's trade deficits with its top trading partners within 90 days. The American Shrimp Processors Association supported the executive orders. This week American shrimp producers scored a victory in International Trade Court when they won reconsideration of shrimp anti-dumping duties on Vietnamese exports by highlighting labor abuse.
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