Jamal Marshall was sentenced to six months imprisonment and six months home confinement today following a hearing in federal district court in Houston, Texas, for making false statements to law enforcement agents regarding the illegal harvest of snapper in the Gulf of Mexico. A second fisherman, Jacob Brown, was previously sentenced on November 29, 2017, to 2 months imprisonment and 4 months home confinement. The sentences were announced by Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement.
In August 2017, Marshall and Brown pleaded guilty to making false statements to agents with the Coast Guard Investigative Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Office of Law Enforcement. According to court documents filed at the time of the plea, the two illegally harvested more than 1,900 pounds of fish, including 642 snapper, weighing approximately 1,846 pounds. The two subsequently lied to law enforcement agents regarding the possession of these fish in order to hide their illegal harvest from Texas waters.
“This case highlights the superb partnership between Texas Parks and Wildlife, NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement, and the Coast Guard here in southeast Texas,” said Capt. Kevin Oditt, Commander of the Coast Guard Sector Houston/Galveston. “As a team, we work together to enforce laws that ensure the sustainability of our fisheries. In protecting our living marine resources, we also protect the livelihoods of commercial fishermen and the ability of recreational anglers to enjoy the sport for generations to come.”
“I am extremely proud of the combined effort by the USCG, NOAA, and Texas Game Wardens who work tirelessly day and night to protect of our natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Col. Grahame Jones of the Texas Parks and Wildlife's Law Enforcement Division.
Reef fish, such as red snapper and vermilion snapper, provide significant economic benefits to the state of Texas from both commercial and recreational fishing. Red snapper, the most popular reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico, are a top predator in the Gulf ecosystem, prized among recreational fishermen, and a valued offering at restaurants. Unsustainable catch rates have led to declines in the populations of these two fish. At their lowest point, vermilion snapper stocks were estimated to be at 20 percent of their historical abundance, and red snapper stocks were estimated to be at only three percent.
The case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – Office of Law Enforcement, the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.