By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE remaining six of 46 Dominican poachers previously convicted of plundering Bahamian waters of some 33,000 pounds of fish last year are now free men.
Howard Thompson Jr, their attorney, confirmed his clients were “free to go” following a hearing in the Court of Appeal yesterday for more time in which to appeal their year-long prison sentence.
Mr Thompson said his clients technically should have been released when their other 40 compatriots were set free after serving six months at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDCS).
However, he said due to an “administrative oversight” and mix-up concerning his clients’ names, they were left off the original notice of appeal - that resulted in them all receiving shorter sentences with the exception of their captain - with the other 40.
On July 8, Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) vessel HMBS Madeira apprehended a Dominican fishing vessel attempting to flee into Cuban waters.
After receiving information of three foreign vessels in the area of Guinchos Cay, HMBS Madeira was dispatched into the area to investigate.
Boat captain Radhames Hernandez and crew, on board a 70-foot steel hull fishing vessel, were apprehended and approximately 33,000 pounds of fisheries were confiscated. Two other fishing vessels which were in the vicinity fled into Cuban waters.
The captain and crew of the apprehended vessel were caught, and each charged with engaging in illegal foreign fishing within the exclusive fishery zone of The Bahamas.
They were also charged with being in possession of 142 pounds of undersized Nassau grouper weighing less than three pounds each; being in possession of 29,104 pounds of fresh crawfish during the closed season (from April 1 to July 31, 2018); and being in possession of 12,973 pounds of undersized crawfish that measured less than three and one-quarter inches from the base of the horn to the end of the jacket.
Hernandez was further charged with possession of an unlicensed, black pistol grip 12-gauge shotgun and nine rounds of shotgun ammunition.
At the August 10 hearing before Magistrate Kara Turnquest-Deveaux, all of the poachers pleaded guilty and were consequently convicted and fined $53,000, or face prison time. The fines totalled $2.3 million. Hernandez was sentenced to one year for possession of ammunition and 18 months for possession of an unlicensed firearm, the sentences to run concurrently.
In December, the Court of Appeal ruled that all of the poachers minus Hernandez would serve six months behind bars as opposed to 12.