Three receive probation for illegal fishing operation

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Three men were recently sentenced to probation and ordered to pay out more than $18,000 in restitution for illegal fishing practices.

Byron Mann, 42, of Caruthersville, Mo.; his father, John Mann, 65, of Caruthersville; and Charles Wallace, 71, of East Prairie, Mo., all pleaded guilty in June to illegally taking shovelnose sturgeon and paddlefish meat and eggs.

Byron Mann also pleaded guilty to taking an endangered species of fish.

On Sept. 27, all three men were sentenced to three years' probation. The Manns were ordered to pay out $17,074 in restitution and Wallace $1,347, court records showed.

On March 24, 2005, two Missouri Department of Conservation officers found an unattended and unlabeled net near Caruthersville, a release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.

In the net were 50 shovelnose sturgeon and three pallid sturgeon, which are a federally endangered species, the release stated. Byron Mann was later seen approaching the net and admitted that it was his.

Mann told the officers he had 25 nets over 17 miles on the Mississippi River in Tennessee and Missouri, and said the only way he could make money was to have unattended nets, according to the release.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Dan Burleson said that with the amount of money involved in fishing operations, there is the potential for violations.

"There's a lot of money in the sturgeon eggs right now," he said, noting that fisherman get paid $85 a pound for caviar, up from about $15 a pound 15 years ago.

The Manns also collected fish caught by Wallace and sold them to a wholesaler in Tennessee. All three men admitted to catching and selling fish in violation of several state regulations

During a 14-month period in 2004 and 2005, the Manns sold more than $250,000 in fish meat and eggs. Burleson pointed out that not all of their sales were illegal.

335-6611, extension 127

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