American Fishermen Call on State Department to Help Captain Illegally Detained in British Virgin Islands

WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / August 14, 2020 / During the week of June 8, the government of the island of Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), detained the documented U.S. fishing boat Rebel Lady, arrested Captain Michael Foy, held the foreign crew without charge, and confiscated 8,000 pounds of tuna and swordfish valued at more than $60,000. Captain Foy was initially denied bail by the local magistrate, Later today, the Tortola High Court will decide on his appeal of that decision. Captain Foy has been imprisoned 67 days as of this writing.

The American Sword and Tuna Harvesters urge all relevant agencies of the United States Government, and specifically the Department of State, to take all possible actions to obtain justice for Captain Foy.

On June 8, the Rebel Lady was drifting outside Tortola territorial waters for several hours, awaiting permission to enter Road Town as she has done more than 9 times in the past year, most recently on April 27th. The purpose of the visits was to fulfill the U.S. Government visa requirement that the foreign crew “go foreign” every 29 days. The Captain and crew do not disembark for this formality. The protocol is: documents are submitted, including COVID-19 health certificates, passports are stamped, and the vessel departs.

On June 9, Captain Foy was instructed to follow a Customs boat into port. There, he was arrested on charges of illegal entry, arrival at a place other than a Port, and operating an unlicensed and unregistered fishing vessel. The Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) requested and received a denial of bail. In addition, DPP is seeking $511,000 in fines, seizure of the vessel, and up to one year imprisonment for Captain Foy. The catch was seized “to be forfeited and resold to benefit the government,” the DPP wrote in a circular.

Captain Foy, who has fished five different oceans and has never been accused of a fishery or customs/immigration violation in his forty years at sea, has been kept in a rat and cockroach infested prison with a court date set for September. Dinners are a piece of bread and tea. Upon initial detainment, Captain Foy was not afforded the bare necessities – a shower, toothbrush and toothpaste, or even a change of clothes – for almost two weeks.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Congressman Andy Kim (D-NJ) have beseeched BVI Deputy Governor David Archer Jr. for fair treatment and humane detention. Humanitarian groups such as Amnesty International, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and Human Rights at Sea were contacted to investigate the squalid conditions of the Indonesian crew.

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement in St. Petersburg, Florida monitors all U.S. flagged fishing vessels with mandatory Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) records. These hourly GPS readings have been made available and are believed to indicate the exact location of the Rebel Lady outside of Tortola’s territorial waters. Additionally, NOAA’s Greater Atlantic Fisheries Office in Gloucester, Massachusetts has authorized the release of the mandatory camera surveillance records from the Rebel Lady, which indicates where the boat was fishing. Captain Foy’s family and friends are confident this technology will prove his innocence.

The Acting Chief of Customs, who was contacted by the Rebel Lady‘s friend and agent in San Juan the day prior to the boat’s arrival, has refused to comment on the case.

About the American Sword and Tuna Harvesters
The American Sword and Tuna Harvesters are fishermen, fish buyers, vessel owners and support businesses who represent a significant harvesting segment of the U.S. Pelagic Longline Industry. We strive for equitable, logic and science based fishery management that results in maximizing the harvest of the United State’s allocation of highly migratory fish species to supply the American public with a healthy, renewable food source.

Jim Budi

SOURCE: American Sword and Tuna Harvesters

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