By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
MORE than 40 convicted Dominican poachers have had their one-year prison sentences reduced by half on appeal.
The Court of Appeal ruled on Monday that the 45 poachers will now serve six months behind bars.
The basis for the shortening of their sentences, The Tribune understands, was because the sentencing magistrate did not take into account any of the mitigating factors, nor their guilty pleas.
However, the 18-month prison sentence of the captain, Radhames Hernandez, for firearm and ammunition charges, still stands, as it was not interfered with by the appellate judges.
Additionally, the appellate court found that the sentencing magistrate did not err to have the vessel the poachers were on, the ‘Ronnye’, forfeited, because it was under her discretion to do so.
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, under the command of Senior Lieutenant William Sturrup, was dispatched into the area to investigate.
Hernandez and crew, on board a 70-foot steel hull fishing vessel, were subsequently apprehended approximately 20 nautical miles south of Cay Lobos. Approximately 33,000 pounds of fisheries were confiscated from that vessel.
Two other fishing vessels which were in the vicinity fled into Cuban waters.
The captain and crew of the apprehended vessel were subsequently caught, and each charged with engaging in illegal foreign fishing within the exclusive fishery zone of the Bahamas and being in possession of one air compressor tank and one spear gun, with plans to use both devices to engage in illegal fishing in Bahamian waters.
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, 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.