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Three Commercial Fishermen Sentenced in Federal Court for Illegal Fishing Operation

October 20, 2006

Three Southeast Missouri men were each sentenced to 90 days home confinement, three years probation and a combined fine of more than $18,000 for illegal commercial fishing and taking an endangered species. The violations occurred along the Mississippi River in the states of Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky, resulting in federal charges. The men were sentenced on Sept. 27., by United States District Judge Rodney W. Sippel, in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

The men, Byron Mann, 42, of Caruthersville, Mo., John Mann, 65, of Caruthersville, Mo., and, Charles Wallace, 71, of East Prairie, Mo., each pled guilty to a felony charge of illegally taking shovelnose sturgeon and paddlefish meat and eggs. In addition, Byron Mann pled guilty to an additional felony charge of taking a federally endangered pallid sturgeon.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Dan Burleson praised the efforts of the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in helping to protect the fish and wildlife resources of the Mississippi River. “The Missouri DOC and the U.S. Attorney’s Office helped us send a strong signal that illegal fishing operations will not be tolerated,” said Burleson. “These federal laws are in place to ensure that fish populations are healthy and can be enjoyed by all Americans, not just a few.”

On March 24, 2005, two Missouri Department of Conservation officers checked a gill net set in the Mississippi River near Caruthersville, Mo. The net was not attended and was not labeled with the owner’s name and address in violation of Missouri fishing regulations. The officers found 50 shovelnose sturgeon and three pallid sturgeon in the net. Pallid sturgeon are listed as a federally endangered species and are illegal to take. One of the pallid sturgeons was dead. The officers released the other two fish.

Later that afternoon, two men in a boat approached the net and pulled it up. The agents made contact with the men. They were Byron Mann and his helper. Mr. Mann admitted that the net was his. He said that he had originally labeled the net as required, but that he had caught a large number of fish in another net and needed to process them first. So he took his label off the net so if it was checked by an officer, the officer would not know whose net it was. Mr. Mann said that he had 25 different nets set on the Mississippi River that day over a distance of 17 miles. He was fishing in both Tennessee and Missouri waters.

Mr. Mann also said he was aware that he was supposed to attend his nets. He said that he was going to continue to fish unattended nets because that was the only way he could make money fishing. Byron Mann and his father, John Allen Mann, operate a fish market in Caruthersville, Mo. They process the fish meat and eggs and sell them to a wholesaler in Paris, Tennessee. They also collected fish caught by Charles Franklin Wallace and sold them under their name in Tennessee.

John Allen Mann was interviewed, along with Charles Franklin Wallace. Both men confirmed what Byron Mann had said. Mr. Wallace also admitted that he caught most of his fish in Kentucky, where he did not have a fishing license. All three men admitted that they had caught and sold their fish in violation of Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky regulations, which is a violation of the federal Lacey Act.

Records obtained by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service disclosed that the Manns had sold more the $250,000.00 in fish meat and eggs in 2004 and 2005.

The case was investigated by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents and Missouri Department of Conservation officers. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney, Eastern District of Missouri, Keith D. Sorrell.

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