October 11, 2017 (BOSTON, MA) – Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) released the following statement today in response to a federal judge’s decision ordering the forfeiture of four vessels and associated fishing permits belonging to Carlos Rafael, the New Bedford-based magnate convicted of engaging in a massive criminal conspiracy in the fishing industry. The court ordered forfeiture of Bull Dog, Olivia & Rafaela, Lady Patricia, and Southern Crusader II along with 34 associated permits – a total appraised value of approximately $2.25 million.
“Mr. Rafael’s crimes put the health of our fisheries directly in harm’s way, and today’s order helps ensure that he pays a price for that corruption,” said CLF attorney Megan Herzog. “Though this amounts to just a small slice of Mr. Rafael’s assets, it sends a signal that anyone who crosses the line will be held criminally accountable. By reinvesting proceeds associated with this case into stronger monitoring and redistributing Mr. Rafael’s forfeited quota among the fishermen harmed by his egregious crimes, we can begin to turn the page on this dark chapter in New England’s fisheries.”
In March, Mr. Rafael pled guilty to twenty-eight criminal counts, including conspiracy to evade federal fishing quotas, profit from the sale of misreported fish, and falsified reporting to the federal government. Last month, he was sentenced to 46 months incarceration, a $200,000 fine, and three years’ probation, during which time he is barred from participating in the fishing industry. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has yet to resolve Mr. Rafael’s civil violations.
Herzog continued, “Fishing in federal waters is a privilege – one that Mr. Rafael has demonstrated he is unfit to hold. Now, it is up to federal regulators to determine the fate of Mr. Rafael’s remaining permits.”
In today’s ruling, the court recognized that Mr. Rafael’s crimes ran afoul of protections for declining fish stocks that represent “a critical natural resource for New England” and that his corruption “was a year in and year out way of doing business that impacted the fisheries and other fishery business.” Judge Young continued, “For decades, [Carlos Rafael] had continuously ignored and circumvented the regulatory restrictions on commercial fishing applicable to all fishermen.”
CLF experts are available for further comment.