Shrimpers arrested tell their side - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Shrimpers arrested tell their side

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CAMERON PARISH, LA (KPLC) -

Anthony Theriot and Philip LeJeune, Sr. are two of three men recently arrested and cited for illegal shrimping on Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge.

The men each face more than a year in jail and fines of up to three thousand dollars on state charges alone, if convicted.  And federal charges are also expected after they fished illegally on a wildlife refuge.

But two of the men wanted to have their say about a system they think cares nothing about their livelihood.

It's a twenty minute ride from the docks in Cameron to Grand Bayou water control structure on the east side of Calcasieu Lake. " Them shrimp just come out of here like you would not believe," said LeJeune as the boat pulled up.

It's the place where LeJeune and Theriot and a third man were arrested for illegal shrimping.  Said LeJeune, "I know I was doing wrong but sometimes a man gotta do what he gotta do to survive."

 Theriot agreed.  "What am I guilty of? Catching shrimp that should be coming out? I mean I don't feel I'm guilty," said Theriot.

They say the system is unfair because water control structures keep the shrimp from the shrimpers. "If they wouldn't trap the shrimp here we wouldn't have to come down here to try to catch 'em," said Theriot.

 LeJeune talked about his recent attempts to catch shrimp according to law.  "I fished nine nights this past moon. And I cleared $500 in nine nights. That doesn't even pay  my fuel," he said.

Theriot said in May 2011 he sold twice as much because the structures were open. "This is stopping us from making a living and if any fisherman says otherwise they're not a fisherman by heart," said Theriot.

Both men would like to see the water control structures done away with. "I'd like to see these weirs taken out because ever since they put them in it killed Cameron. These fishermen ain't making no money here," said LeJeune.

And they say they are not the only ones to fish illegally. "I've been here and there were ten boats catching shrimp," said Theriot. "I know that they're doing just like me, paying their bills."

The controversial structures called weirs are supposed to help prevent saltwater intrusion, but the shrimpers say they protect other interests. "They want the marshes dry for the cattle and they want to keep it high in the winter when the tide drops for the hunters. It hurts sports fishermen too," said LeJeune.

 Shrimper Monroe Gray was not one of those arrested.  Still he said the arrests show there are problems with the structures. "They're killing the shrimping industry. Look at it. Forty pounds legally, four to seven thousand pounds in two hours illegally. And you don't' see a problem?"  

State Wildlife and Fisheries officials say they have nothing to add to their original news release which details the arrests and charges.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.

The news release follows:

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries News

Three Cameron Men Cited for Illegal Shrimping on Cameron Prairie NWR

Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division agents cited three Cameron men for alleged fishing violations on May 29 on Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge.

Agents cited Anthony G. Theriot, 36, Philip LeJeune Sr., 50, and Jerimie M. Pugh, 37, for taking and possessing game fish with illegal methods, leaving fishing nets unattended, blocking the passage of fish, taking shrimp with illegal gear and trawling at night.

Around 7:30 p.m. on May 29, LDWF agents observed a vessel traveling across the southern end of Calcasieu Lake before stopping in Grand Bayou where the subjects placed a shrimp trawl across the opening at the Grand Bayou water control structure.  Grand Bayou is located on the Cameron Prairie NWR in Cameron Parish.

With the aid of handheld thermal imaging systems, agents watched the subjects placing and running the trawl and emptying the shrimp into the vessel.  After the three men emptied their net they would leave the trawl and travel in to Calcasieu Lake to cull shrimp.

Around 10:15 p.m. agents made contact with the three men.  Agents seized 661 pounds of shrimp, two speckled trout, a 36 foot shrimp trawl and their vessel.

The three men may also facing federal charges through the U.S. Attorney's Office for violating rules on a National Wildlife Refuge since this NWR does not allow commercial fishing activity nor night time fishing.

Taking and possessing game fish with illegal methods brings a $400 to $950 fine and up to 120 days in prison.  Leaving nets unattended carries a $500 to $750 fine and 15 to 30 days in jail.  Blocking the passage of fish and taking shrimp with illegal gear each brings a $250 to $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail.  Trawling at night brings a $100 to $350 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

Agents participating in the case were Senior Agent Carl Pickett, Sgt. Aaron Herpin, Sgt. David Sanford and Senior Agent Stuart Guillory.

For more information, contact Adam Einck at 225-765-2465 or aeinck@wlf.la.gov.

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