Illegal Charters: Owners of two vessels convicted.

Owners of two vessels criminally charged, convicted for operating illegal passenger charters

Two recent back-to-back law enforcement cases in Florida demonstrate the aggressive posture the Coast Guard is taking to eliminate illegal passenger charter activities. Because Smartphone-based applications have made it easier in recent years for passengers to locate and hire charter vessels,
the Coast Guard is more vigilant than ever in detecting illegal charter activities and seek maximum enforcement actions against the vessel owners and operators.

In separate incidents between 2017 and 2018, the Coast Guard issued COTP Order violations against the yachts No Rules II and the Golden Touch II for illegal charter activities. Both vessels were caught operating with more than six passengers for hire without a licensed operator on board or a valid
Coast Guard inspection. The Coast Guard ordered the operators of both vessels to cease operating with passengers for hire until compliant with applicable laws and regulations, or face substantial civil penalties and/or prison time.

Subsequent to the COTP Orders, Coast Guard teams boarded No Rules II and the Golden Touch II again and found each to be in violation of the orders. It's not uncommon for vessels with a history of citations to be targeted for additional inspection.

"Illegal charter operators should realize that if we know you've violated Federal boating laws in the past, there's a good chance we're going to follow up and make sure you've corrected whatever issues we found," Lt. Cmdr. Byron Rios, who works in the Coast Guard 7th District Office of Prevention. "When you break the law, you're opening yourself up to additional compliance inspections."

The owners of the vessels were criminally charged under federal law and convicted for operating illegal passenger charters. A federal judge in Southern Florida ordered the owner of the No Rules II to pay a $96,000 fine and serve five years of probation, including the requirement that he stay away from any type of boat. The owner of the Golden Touch II was sentenced to 180 days of home detention, three years of probation and a $4,000 fine.

Passengers are taking an unnecessary safety risk by riding on a vessel without a credentialed mariner in charge or an uninspected vessel that needs to be inspected under federal regulations. The Coast Guard urges passengers to request to see the vessel operator's valid credential and/or proof of any required inspection or examination before hiring any crewed charter vessel, water taxi, or other type of waterborne transportation, to ensure they possess a Coast Guard issued Merchant Mariner's Credential suitable for the vessel's service.

Credentialed mariners who work for multiple vessel owners/operators should be aware that if they accept employment from an illegal operation, they risk not only passenger safety, but also their own credential, livelihood, and reputation.

These cases, as well as the recent deaths of passengers aboard the illegal charters Jaguar and Miami Vice, highlight the need for continued coordination between the Coast Guard, the passenger vessel industry, and local law enforcement. Illegal operations by individuals who are either unaware of or avoiding U.S. laws and Coast Guard regulations governing operator credentialing requirements, vessel inspections, operational standards, and safety equipment pose serious safety concerns to the public
and the environment, but also adversely impact the livelihood of legitimate operators who do comply with federal requirements. The Coast Guard is dedicated to investigating these violations and taking the appropriate enforcement actions to ensure compliance and public safety.

For more information on how to verify if a charter is properly inspected and licensed, or to report suspected illegal charter activities, contact your local Coast Guard sector.

Paul K. Mucha
Supervisory Marine Inspector
USCG Sector Boston

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Message from the President

Greetings to everyone as we look for a prosperous 2019. Our NACO Annual Meeting was held in Alexandria, VA and was a one-day business meeting. We had a great meeting that was very informative. We also had our Board member elections where all incumbents were reelected plus, we have a new Board member elected from Monterey, CA, Capt Joe Headley. We welcome Capt Headley to the Board and look forward to having someone from CA to help keep us informed on issues where NACO can help reduce regulatory and financial burdens on their fleets. The Board Officers election was also held, and the current Officers were reelected. I want to thank the Board for the confidence in our work. 
NACO has had a productive year in reducing regulatory and financial impacts on the for-hire charter and headboat industry. Working with other passenger vessel and commercial fishing organizations we were able to finally gain a permanent exemption to the EPA NPDES requirements by supporting and helping to pass the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. Now all commercial vessels less than 79’ are permanently exempt from obtaining EPA permits and will not be required to keep daily reports on discharges from your vessel. NACO has pushed for this exemption since 2006 with the help of our Board, our membership, and working with others we now have a successful conclusion on the issue. 
NACO was also involved in the passage of the Modern Fish Act, the first real legislation that brings much attention to recreational fisheries and will hopefully lead to improved federal management of recreational fisheries. The Act requires the NMFS to conduct studies on future fishery allocation issues and IFQs/Catch Shares. Most of what the Act does applies to the Southeast and Gulf areas as most of the west coast and northeast are not affected by the legislation. The key part of the Act is the attention it brings to recreational fisheries for future management for all. In the Gulf of Mexico there has been a push to provide IFQs/Catch Shares to the for-hire sector. The proposed plan would provide a small number of several species to the for-hire vessels, similar to the commercial IFQ programs, that they could fish as they want. While on the face of the plan being able to have your own quota and fish anytime of the year without any seasons, the numbers of fish that would be provided are so small that after several years of working on the plan the small number of owners who pushed for it finally realized they would be better off having a fixed season, bag and size limits. The Gulf Council will be disbanding the advisory panels, at their request, and putting further discussions on IFQs/Catch Shares on hold until a new data system can be developed, implemented and compared to the current data program. This is another NACO accomplishment since we have been opposed to charter/headboat IFQs/Catch Shares from the beginning. 
We had a presentation from Retired Capt Eric Christensen who now works for the Passenger Vessel Association, about recent USCG issues. He and Capt Ed Obrien, our USCG liaison, provided information on the work the USCG is doing on illegal charters, on USCG work during the Govt shutdown, and a quick review of the pending USCG Medical Manual which is in the comment stage. NACO will be providing comments on the new proposed Medical Manual but as of this writing it appears the Manual is reasonable. 
The USCG has made several cases on illegal charters and will be making more as this is an ongoing issue. If you know of any illegal charter operation you should report that to your local USCG office. Safe and Legal operations can be adversely affected by illegal operations, not only by loss of business but any accident by illegal operations can come back to cause the USCG and NTSB to look at making regulatory changes that could affect us all. Info on the passenger vessel fire in St Petersburg last January was also presented. One person died as a result of that fire and the report shows the fire could have easily been prevented had the vessel owner followed required maintenance and fire and safety drills. One main engine ran hot due to no raw water coming in to cool it and the engine was never shut down which eventually caused the fiberglass exhaust tube to catch fire plus there was a plastic tube on the fuel tank to gauge how much fuel was in it that melted and caused the diesel fuel to ignite. 
Another NACO accomplishment, working with many other organizations was the elimination of the Obama National Ocean Policy. President Trump has issued a new Executive Order that creates more reasonable uses of the Ocean Policy which are currently being put together. The new policy recommends and encourages active stakeholder involvement in all discussions of the new Ocean Policy. The new policy is less restrictive and will be a policy we can support and work with. The new Ocean Policy, just like the Obama policy, covers all areas including the Great Lakes so we will be looking to work with our Great Lakes partners on this and other issues coming.
Our Marine Insurance Partner, Charter Lakes, continues to offer one of the best marine insurance policies for our industry where you can select from a basic policy to a premier policy that provides for a deductible that is reduced every year and eventually to “0” when there are no claims.   The Charter Lakes policy also pays for half of a haul out to secure your vessel in case of a named storm or other natural disaster. It also has a business loss provision where in case of a fire, collision, or other damage the policy pays for some business loss. The NACO Port Supply card provides discounts to NACO members at all West Marine stores and we have a fully compliant Drug Consortium with discounted rates.
Lastly, NACO has partnered with the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) to provide some financial help to the for-hire charter/headboat victims of Hurricane Michael. We are currently trying to raise money to provide to those in need. This is our first effort on this type of help, and we are looking to expand this effort to all parts of the country when a disaster strikes and causes damage to your business. The IGFA, American Sportfishing Association, Yamaha, Sportfishing Policy, Destin Charter Boat Association, Panama City Boatmen Association, Lake of the Ozarks Captains Association, and others have graciously contributed to the fund. We are still trying to find everyone in the affected area and still actively looking for donations. Any amount is appreciated so if you know of a company, organization, or individual who may be interested in helping with this fund please have them contact us. After this effort is done, we intend to build a fund for the next disaster where ever it may be. The for-hire charter/headboat industry is critical to keeping a working waterfront in all areas of our country. We must all work to ensure it remains viable. 
Every NACO member is important as we strive to work for the benefit of everyone. The NACO Board works hard and your opinion matters to us. If you have an issue you would like for us to address, please provide it and we will get back with you and look forward to hearing from you. Periodically we ask that you act to contact your Federal Legislators as this is extremely important to our work on the Hill. Strength is in numbers and contacts from constituents are important to Legislators. With your continued support, we look forward to providing you, our members, continued regulatory relief, financial savings, and improved benefits!
We thank you for your continued support and look forward to hearing from you during the coming year.
Capt. Bob Zales, II

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Passage of VIDA: A landmark achievement for the Maritime Industry

Great news and an early Christmas present for all of us and the maritime industry. The news below was sent out by the American Waterways Operators who we have been in a coalition of maritime industry members with on the EPA NPDES issue working to gain this success for many years.  The coalition is made up of over 300 diverse vessel owners and operators across the United States and along with NACO includes organizations such as the Sportfishing Association of California, the Passenger Vessel Association, and many commercial fishing organizations. 

We provided you the info on the Senate passage of this USCG Act and now that the House has passed it we wait on the President to sign it.  The most important part of this legislation is that all fishing vessels of ’79 or less will be exempt from the EPA NPDES permitting requirements eliminating a host of burdensome paper work and permit requirements and possible liability issues with any of those requirements.  NACO has been working to gain this permanent exemption for our members since 2006.  This has been a long and hard fought effort and I am very pleased we have been able to achieve this success for our membership.

Here is the info I received this morning from Jennifer Carpenter with the AWO.  As future regulatory issues are proposed NACO will be involved in every step to ensure that all regulatory and financial burdens are kept at a minimum.

Friends –

It’s been a long, tough fight, but your collective efforts over many years have paid off: last night, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote S. 140, the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, which includes the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. The bill, which passed the Senate two weeks ago, now heads to the President’s desk for signature.

Passage of VIDA is a landmark achievement for the maritime industry. It increases certainty, reduces legal vulnerability for vessel owners and mariners, and paves the way for replacement of the Vessel General Permit and its hundred-plus state conditions imposed by more than two dozen states with a national framework for the regulation of ballast water and other vessel discharges jointly administered by EPA and the Coast Guard. VIDA also provides permanent regulatory relief for fishing vessels and vessels under 79 feet. The bill is the result of persistent grassroots advocacy by your organizations and companies; a diverse and united industry coalition; and bipartisan leadership and support from an array of friends and champions on Capitol Hill. It is a shared victory and win-win for maritime commerce and the marine environment. Thank you all so much for the support and hard work that made it possible.

To be sure, there is much work ahead, both for EPA and the Coast Guard as they work to develop the regulations and policies to implement VIDA, and for our industry in helping them do that promptly and well. We will need to work the regulatory process as diligently as we worked the legislative process, and our ability to join forces and leverage our collective capabilities and resources will continue to be crucial. I look forward to working with you on this next phase of our collective effort in the months and years ahead.

But, today, let me simply say thank you, and congratulations on a job well done! Best wishes to all of you, your families and friends for a wonderful holiday season.

NACO continues to work for our industry to ease legislative, regulatory, and financial burdens for all for hire charter boat owners and operators.

Capt. Bob Zales, II


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New partnership between the IGFA and NACO

New partnership between the IGFA and NACO
NACO was contacted by the folks at the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) on October 17, 2018 about forming this partnership as a way to provide some financial assistance to those for hire charter and headboat owners, operators, and crews who have suffered from the impacts of hurricane Michael. Our NACO staff has already been working to identify the for hire charter and headboat owners within the area most affected by Michael which is from Steinhatchee, FL to Panama City Beach, FL. Working with the Florida Wildlife Commission and the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission we have been provided the number of for hire charter and headboats licensed to operate in Florida and with federal charter and headboat permits.
We are in the process of providing more information to you and providing our application form for those living and working in the affected area to apply for assistance. Due to limited funds we will not be able to provide financial assistance to everyone and will be looking to help those most in need. We will also be seeking more funding to add to what IGFA has provided. Please stand by as we are diligently working to provide more information to those folks living and working in the affected area.
We greatly appreciate the folks at the IGFA for reaching out to NACO to help in this effort. We are looking forward to working with IGFA on future projects to help the for hire charter and headboat industry. 
For those who will apply for financial assistance from this program be aware you “DO NOT” have to be a member of NACO or the IGFA. This assistance is dedicated for those in need the most and to help folks get back on the water providing recreational fishing opportunities to the public.
We welcome anyone who would like to be a member of NACO as working to improve the for hire charter and headboat industry is one of our main goals. Thanks and look for more information soon.
You may receive the following via email fro the IGFA:
The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) recently announced that it will allocate an initial $10,000 in relief funds from its Worldwide Anglers Relief Fund (WARF) to assist in the recovery efforts of the recreational fishing industry in the Florida Panhandle after Hurricane Michael. 
The IGFA and Costa, a founding partner of the WARF, will be working with the National Association of Charterboat Operators (NACO) to identify those captains, guides and mates that are in the most need of this relief funding. 
We would greatly appreciate you helping us to spread the news about this important work to help get the recreational fishing industry in the Florida Panhandle back up and running. 
If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact me directly. 
Best regards,
Jack Vitek
Marketing Manager
International Game Fish Association (IGFA)
300 Gulf Stream Way
Dania Beach, FL 33004
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Disaster Relief

The Deadline for disaster relief applications for assistance to be turned in to the NACO office is March 15, 2019
The applications will be verified and each applicant will receive an individual response to your application. If you turned in an application and are not sure if we received it or not, please call the NACO office 866-981-5136 so that we can confirm receipt.


Recent News Articles & releases:

FEBRUARY 20, 2019

Keep Florida Fishing Contributes to Northwest Florida Charterboat Operators Impacted by Hurricane Michael

Keep Florida Fishing Contributes to Northwest Florida Charterboat Operators Impacted by Hurricane Michael

(Tallahassee, Fla.) – Keep Florida Fishing® (KFF), an advocacy arm of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), today showed its support for the National Association of Charterboat Operators’ (NACO) by contributing to the organization’s Disaster Relief Fund. The fund supports both NACO members, and non-members, recovering from Hurricane Michael.

NACO is a 501(c)(6) non-profit membership association representing charterboat and headboat owners and operators across the nation, with many members located in Florida. NACO and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) have partnered to provide financial aid to anglers in most need of assistance due to disasters in their area.

“Keep Florida Fishing, the state-based advocacy arm of the recreational fishing industry, is proud to support our anglers, along with charterboat and headboat owners and operators here in Northwest Florida, who have been hit hard by Hurricane Michael,” said Gary Jennings, Keep Florida Fishing Director. “The devastation experienced in the Panhandle region is substantial and our hope is that others in the sportfishing industry will also contribute to recovery efforts.”

For information on how your organization or association may contribute, please contact the NACO office at 866-981-5136 or email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About Keep Florida Fishing®
Keep Florida Fishing® is an advocacy arm of the American Sportfishing Association with the goal of ensuring Florida anglers have clean waters, abundant fisheries and access to both. Florida is considered the ‘Fishing Capital of the World’ and home to more than three million licensed anglers, supporting 128,000 jobs, providing $9.6 billion in economic activity and contributing more than $53.3 million for fisheries conservation. Learn more at Find Keep Florida Fishing on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Pinterest.


Hurricane Michael Disaster Relief Effort NACO & IGFA, WARF

Welcome to the National Association of Charterboat Operators disaster web page.  Here you will find information about the Hurricane Michael financial assistance program created by the IGFA and NACO.  The IGFA is a 501 (c)(3) charitable organization where contributions and donations may be tax free depending on your jurisdiction.  The IGFA created the Worldwide Anglers Relief Fund to provide financial assistance to for hire charter services adversely affected by disasters. Since NACO is the national voice for for-hire charter operations across the Nation IGFA contacted us to provide a mechanism to locate as many for-hire charter operations as possible. 

NACO received a grant from the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2005 after the many storms that hit the Gulf coast to do a study on the social and economic impacts of storms on charter boat operations.  The study “Charter Boat Fleet in Peril: Losses to the Gulf of Mexico Charter Fleet from Hurricane Storms during 2005” provides a wealth of information on the social and economic impacts of devastating storms on the charter fleet and is the first and only such study that can be used to calculate the impacts.  You can request a copy of the study from NACO. Since NACO has the expertise of the for-hire charter industry in every area of the country we were a great choice to help distribute helpful funds to those who most need the help.  The 16 member Board of Directors come from every area of the country which gives NACO the unique perspective and knowledge of the industry on a broad scale.  For this funding effort we have created a committee consisting of 3 Board members, all 3 either live and operate in Florida year round or most of the year.  In addition our Treasurer, President, and Executive Director will serve as advisors to the committee.  The committee will be responsible for reviewing the applicants for funding and determine those of the most need.  As should be expected not every for-hire charter operation will be affected the same way.  In many cases economic and physical loses will be minimal while in other cases they will be complete loses.  Your application  will provide the information necessary to determine the hardest hit.  As is stated in the cover letter sent with each application our available funds are limited at this time but we are actively searching for more donors to add to the fund.  We hope to have good news on this front soon. Please check back to this web site often to see updates on the program.  While you do not need to be a member of NACO to receive funds clearly memberships keep NACO moving forward.  Once your charter business is recovered and your business begins to prosper again we hope you will consider membership in NACO as we provide a host of benefits and our regulatory work has saved the for-hire charter industry multiple thousands of dollars and reduced your regulatory workload.  See our accomplishments on this site and we are certain you will agree.  We look forward to your recovery and the recovery of the for-hire charter and head boat fleet in the area devastated by Hurricane Michael.

 To submit an application please Click thislink: MICHAEL_DISASTER_RELIEF_APPLICATION

To all those who have submitted your application for financial help we are continuing to receive applications and are seeking more financial donations to build up the fund.  Please be patient as we are working hard to ensure we capture as many folks as possible and working to provide as much financial help we can.  Keep checking this site as we will continue to provide updates on our progress.

Worldwide Anglers Relief Fund (WARF)

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