March 01, 2006
In Dec. 2005, the NOAA Fisheries Service's Office for Law Enforcement in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seized thousands of pieces of illegal whale baleen from individuals and two Anchorage, Alaska businesses for numerous alleged violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
The investigation was initiated in Nov. 2005, when OLE special agents observed persons at the Outhouse Creations kiosk in "The Mall At Sears" selling products made from baleen. Federal agents executed the three search warrants at the Outhouse Creations kiosk, a residence in Anchorage and at a shop where the baleen was being crafted. During the execution of the search warrants, approximately 2,586 pieces of raw and crafted baleen and other marine mammal parts were seized.
The marine mammal parts seized include: 104 pieces of raw bowhead whale baleen, 52 pieces of raw humpback whale baleen, 43 pieces of minke whale baleen, 1,171 carved and polished baleen items, and 61 pieces of walrus bone and ivory. The seized items were valued at approximately $50,000.
"We take these issues very seriously and will continue to pursue individuals involved in any illegal trade of baleen," said Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Kevin Heck, NOAA Fisheries Service OLE - Alaska Division.
The MMPA (16 U.S.C. 1361) prohibits the sale of marine mammal products and parts, except when sold as Authentic Native Articles of Handicraft made by an Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo who resides in Alaska and dwells on the North Pacific Ocean or Arctic Ocean coast. The people involved in this investigation were all non-native individuals.
The parties have 30-days by which they must request a hearing to contest the charges before an Administrative Law Judge or seek to resolve the matter by agreement with NOAA. The case will be prosecuted by NOAA's Office of General Counsel for Enforcement & Litigation in Juneau.
To report illegal fishing activities contact the NOAA Fisheries Service's Enforcement Hot Line at 800-853-1964.
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