Fishy Government Agency Confiscates Windfall Catch
I really hate it when stupid government bureacracy steps in the way when a man hits pay dirt and deprives him of his windfall based on a technicality. It’s even worse when that windfall begins to fund a government-sponsored racket. But with the way that the government is so hungry for money and wasteful with the resources that it “acquires” from people, this is a story that is more the rule than the exception.
This story begins with one of those catches by a fisherman that go into the newspapers and into fame. Carlos Rafael, a notable fisherman in New Bedford, Massachusetts unwittingly caught a giant bluefin tuna, coming in at over 800 lbs. He was trolling the waters when the tuna got caught in his net. It was one of those catches that happens once upon a time and can really propel the career of a commercial fisherman to legendary status.
Rafael filed the proper paperwork, had the tuna permits, and notified the fishery regulators immediately on the catch. However, when he rolled to the dock, the NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement immediately confiscated the mammoth tuna because it was caught in a net, rather than with a rod and reel. Rafael didn’t try to hide it or anything, nor did he know it couldn’t be caught in a net. But that didn’t dissuade the feds to helping themselves to it.
Thing is, bluefin tuna at that size can go for quite a pretty penny. Enormous catches like this can easily fetch a quarter million or more on the market. So, the NOAA has indicated that if a violation exists (which they surely will), the proceeds for the tuna, which will be sold in consignment overseas, will be put into the Asset Forfeiture Fund. In other words, Rafael’s catch will be a windfall boon for the NOAA’s AFF, which has a long history of misuse and abuse.
Essentially, the AFF is a $50M slush fund that pays the salaries of administrative law judges that decide cases to bring against fishermen. In other words, a good old fashioned conflict of interest where those deciding cases against fishermen are directly compensated from the fund that collects the fines assessed from said fishermen. Additionally, this fund has had very little, if any, oversight and accountability and is used to pay for fleets of boats and vehicles and finance wasteful travel to exotic destinations. And they stand to make another quarter million because Carlos Rafael did the right thing considering the circumstances. It wasn’t like he tried to catch this tuna; it just happened. And with the local notoriety of the NOAA OLE’s activities against the commercial fishing industry as of late, they’re not going to let this catch slide through their bureaucratic net, despite all the spin that the NOAA administrators attempt to produce. In they end, NOAA OLE stole this catch and are using the proceeds to line their own pockets.
The way I see it, if Rafael actually did something wrong, the money should be put towards charities that work towards conservation of ocean life, or relief efforts for cleanup of pollution, or something. The fact that it’s going to the Asset Forfeiture Fund says that this story’s fishiness isn’t because the fisherman is telling a yarn about catching a whopper, but rather, about collecting a whopper windfall from a citizen.
In the end, Carlos stands on the dock, no fish, no money, and a written warning in hand from the NOAA OLE as the only testament for his fish story. A sad story indeed, but typical of the federal government these days.