For the past 21 months, Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens have been going undercover disguised as fish sellers in plain clothes. They approached 42 businesses offering protected fish for sale to seafood markets and restaurants along the upper Texas coast. During their investigation, the wardens also found some businesses that did not have valid retail fish dealer’s licenses and issued citations for numerous other charges listed in the press release below.
Original press release issued by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on April 5th, 2012:
State game wardens have issued citations to nine businesses which illegally purchased game fish from undercover officers during a 21-month sting conducted by the Special Operations unit of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Law Enforcement Division.
In an operation that dates to June 2010, wardens in plain clothes began offering Texas saltwater species including spotted sea trout, red drum (redfish), red snapper, southern flounder and golden croaker to seafood markets and restaurants along the upper Texas coast. Of 42 businesses approached, only 9 of those illegally purchased game fish.
Wardens made video and audio recordings of each illicit sale in addition to preserving cash received and receipts as evidence.
“While we were disappointed that some businesses knowingly purchased game fish for resale, 33 Texas businesses did the right thing and turned our wardens down,” said Col. Pete Flores, Law Enforcement Division director.
In all, wardens sold 418 pounds of fish for prices ranging from 60 cents to $4 a pound.
The number and type of misdemeanor citations filed include:
Two for purchase of protected fish (spotted sea trout and red drum; seven for purchase of aquatic products by a wholesale fish dealer; two for having no retail fish dealer’s license; three for purchase of aquatic products by retail fish dealers; two for purchase of aquatic products by restaurant owner, operator or employee; two for possession of undersize spotted sea trout; two for possession of undersize red drum; two for possession of undersize red snapper and two for possession of undersize flounder.
For each of these 23 Class C misdemeanors, fines can range up to $500.
Photo: Tony Weeg (T o n y, flickr)