Today, March 19, eight oyster fishermen entered a no contest plea for several health and oyster violations in the 15th Judicial District Court of Louisiana in Vermilion Parish.
The Honorable Judge Durwood Conque accepted the pleas from 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. Judge Conque ordered the men to each pay a fine of $1,922.50.
On July 25, 2012, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Enforcement Division 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.
Oysters that are intended for raw consumption have strict harvest and refrigeration requirements that were not met by these fishermen. Agents seized a total of 495 sacks of oysters and returned them to the water in an area closed to oyster harvesting.
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.
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 mainly pertaining to the enforcement of refrigeration requirements for oysters intended for raw consumption.
Sgt. Justin Sonnier was the lead investigator on this case, which was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Aimee Hebert.
Major Jubal Marceaux, Capt. Robert Buatt, Sgt. Brian Theriot and Senior Agents Jason Stagg, Myron Verret, Derek Logan, Carl Pickett, Donnie Bozeman and Jason Marks also assisted with this case.
Logo courtesy Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries