Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Officer Terry Abrams holds the 40-pound, threatened spring chinook salmon. Photo by Matt Wallis, Skagit Valley Herald
SEATTLE - A Mount Vernon man who admitted to poaching a chinook salmon from the Skagit River in July 2001 has been fined $5,000 for violating the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), state and federal fisheries officials announced today.
Charles J. Hildebrand, 63, today was fined for catching the 40-pound chinook, which is listed as a threatened species under the ESA.
The fine was issued by officials with National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) general counsel's office and Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) in coordination with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
WDFW also seized Hildebrand's 16-foot custom-built fishing boat, valued at $6,000, which will be used by enforcement officers for river patrols. He also had to pay a civil penalty.
"Safeguarding ESA-listed fish and wildlife populations is one of this Department's top priorities," said WDFW Enforcement Chief Bruce Bjork. "The severity of these penalties, including the seizure of a valuable fishing boat, should be a clear message to everyone that these agencies are serious about enforcing laws designed to protect and restore the public's natural resources."
Bjork emphasized the importance of partnering with landowners and citizens who help natural resource agencies by reporting potentially illegal activity.
"We appreciate and rely on the public who assist fish and wildlife enforcement officers in reporting this violation," Bjork said.
When interviewed, Hildebrand not only admitted to knowing that he caught a federally-protected fish during a closed season, but that he routinely engaged in this type of activity.
"This type of egregious and knowing violation of the ESA needs to be addressed so folks know that we're serious about protecting listed fish," said Vicki Nomura, Acting Special Agent in Charge for NOAA Fisheries OLE.
The ESA, first implemented in 1973, is administered by NOAA Fisheries OLE and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The act is designed to save species and their habitats when other efforts have failed.
"Under a Joint Enforcement Agreement between WDFW and federal fisheries offices, the two agencies have agreed to work together to prosecute ESA violations," Nomura said.
NOAA Fisheries OLE has conveyed $900,000 to the WDFW for the Joint Enforcement Agreement program to conduct additional enforcement patrols in support of protecting and conserving the nation's living marine resources.