Biloxi Fisherman Talks About Illegal Shrimping Ticket - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi Fisherman Talks About Illegal Shrimping Ticket

A Coast Guard news release says Paul Thai could be fined up to $119,000 for shrimping in the Tortugas Ecological Reserve near the Florida Keys.

Last summer, the federal government closed that area to shrimpers.

But Paul Thai told WLOX News the map he got off the internet before he left Biloxi didn't show the change. "According to this chart, I'm legal," Thai said, as he pointed to the internet map. Then he looked at the map the Coast Guard showed him and said, "According to this chart, I'm illegal."

Last month, Paul Thai was using the map that said he was legal. His boat, the Mayflower, was catching shrimp off the Florida Keys, near a spot called the Tortugas Ecological Reserve. "When the Coast Guard pulled me over," Thai said, "I didn't know what happened. I didn't realize I was in closed water."

The Coast Guard issued Thai a ticket. And the National Marine Fisheries Service confiscated the shrimp on his boat. Thai had the seizure receipt in his pocket as he stood on a Biloxi pier.

"This is something really weird and confusing. And if I knew it was closed, I wouldn't come near it," he said.

The confusion has Thai wondering what he should do next. Because he came home with empty shrimp nets, he didn't make any money. And that's put his next shrimping expedition in jeopardy.

On Friday, Thai called Gene Taylor's office. He wanted to see if the congressman could help him sort through the map confusion.

Thai called WLOX News because he wanted people to understand that he didn't know he was doing something wrong. "I want justification that I'm legal with everything I do," he said. "And I want people to know that I'm not a crook."

An attorney from the National Marine Fisheries Service told WLOX News the case is being reviewed by law enforcement. Robin Young does expect it to come to his office for prosecution. According to Young, it's a fisherman's duty to know what the rules are where they shrimp.

by Brad Kessie

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