Eight oyster fishermen convicted of harvest violations in Vermilion

VERMILION PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Eight oyster fishermen entered a no contest plea for several health and oyster violations in 15th Judicial District Court in Vermilion Parish, according to a news release from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Those entering pleas were Antonio G. Ayala, 34, Jose L. Ayala, 41, Jose M. Ayala, 21, all of Dickinson, Texas; Jose F. Rodriguez, 31, Jose G. Arredondo, 45, Octavio R. Vega, 38, all of Houston, Texas; Jose M. Bocanegra, 23, of Bacliff, Texas, and Heliodoro Gonzalez-Bocanegra, 43, of Chalmette.

The men were ordered to pay a fine of $1,922.50 each.

According to wildlife officials, on July 25, 2012, agents in Vermilion Parish conducted surveillance on a group of oyster fisherman that were harvesting oysters in Southwest Pass.

"Agents observed several boats coming into the dock in Intracoastal City with sacks of oysters that were labeled to be shucked and processed. However, agents later observed these fishermen change the tags on the sacks of oysters to indicate that the oysters could be consumed raw when offloading the sacks from their boats. These mislabeled sacks of oysters were then loaded onto a truck and were destined for Florida, before LDWF agents intercepted the shipment," the release states.

Officials said that oysters that are intended for raw consumption have strict harvest and refrigeration requirements that were not met by these fishermen.

Agents reportedly seized a total of 495 sacks of oysters and returned them to the water in an area closed to oyster harvesting.

Officials said each man pleaded no contest for violating the sanitation code for logbook and refrigeration requirements, adulterating or misbranding seafood, violating interstate commerce regulations and failing to fill out oyster tags correctly.

According to officials, since April of 2012, LDWF agents have seized over 1,000 sacks of oysters in Vermilion Parish alone and returned these oysters to closed areas.

These seizures were reportedly mainly pertaining to the enforcement of refrigeration requirements for oysters intended for raw consumption.

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