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North Carolina fisherman pleads guilty to illegally selling Atlantic Striped Bass

KIBBUTZ MASHABEI SADE, ISRAEL - FEBRUARY 11: A farmhand holds up a striped bass just harvested from a unique fish pond February 11, 2007 at Kibbutz Mashabei Sade in Israel's southern Negev Desert. Far from the nearest coast, Israeli farmer Amit Ziv (L) uses steaming hot saline water pumped from an ancient aquifer 600 meters below ground level to raise about 15,000 fish at any one time, mainly Australian bass and striped bass which have been adapted to the water's relatively-low salinity. The water is then recycled and used to irrigate the Kibbutz's fields. Increasing populations and economic growth are stretching the supply of fresh water all over the Middle East, and it is feared that future conflicts in the area will be over water sources rather than the politics and religion that have marked regional conflicts to date. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

A farmhand holds up a striped bass just harvested from a unique fish pond February 11, 2007 at Kibbutz Mashabei Sade in Israel’s southern Negev Desert. (Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON, N.C. – A commercial fisherman pleaded guilty to illegally harvesting and selling Atlantic Striped Bass.

The United States Attorney’s Office announced 71-year-old James Ralph Craddock’s guilty plea on Monday.

Craddock’s federal charges included the illegal harvest and sale of the bass from federal waters off the coast of North Carolina in 2010.

In February of 2010 a special agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) got information that illegal fishing for Atlantic Striped Bass was taking place.

A ban was put in place in 1990 for harvesting the bass from the United States Exclusive Zone (EEZ) which includes waters three to 200 miles seaward of the U.S. coastline.

A patrol vessel eventually intercepted one of 17 commercial trawlers in the EEZ.

When they boarded the vessel 173 Atlantic Striped Bass were found.

The captain of the vessel later admitted to taking the fish from the EEZ.

NOAA then conducted an analysis of electronic data and written reports from other commercial trawlers in the same area.

They found that during the North Carolina 20-day ocean trawl season in January/February of 2010 Craddock, then the Captain of the 74-foot commercial fishing vessel ‘Capt Ralph’ harvested over 12,000 pounds of Atlantic Striped Bass.

The investigation also revealed that Craddock harvested 1,750 pounds of the bass from the EEZ which had an estimated fair-market retail price of about $14,000.

Craddock made false statements to NOAA, concealing the true location of the harvest in his federal vessel trip reports.

Craddock’s sentence hearing is scheduled for March 27, 2017. He faces a max sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.