The Lacey Act and the Law

Two days ago, I wrote "Truth Takes a Back Seat at Lacey Act Hearing," where I pointed out Senator Rand Paul mislead the public regarding the arrest of two men for violating the Lacey Act by illegally harvesting lobsters. Senator Paul responded and implied that it was I, in fact, who was misleading the public.

It is always interesting and sometimes productive to debate with people of differing political views. In this case, Senator Paul provided all the information needed to make an informed decision on this issue by including the 11th Circuit Court decision on the case at hand. I strongly urge anyone to read the case as it lays out the facts, the law, and the circumstances better than I ever could.

Anyone who listened to Senator Paul's testimony at the hearings would have difficulty reconciling them with the facts of the case. The evidence clearly shows that not only did the fishermen run a large and complex operation, but they were well aware that they were harvesting millions and millions of dollars' worth of lobsters they were not supposed to catch.

The court makes it clear that restrictions on which lobsters can be caught are not trivial. Those restrictions are in place so that immature lobsters, or others that are about to reproduce, are protected. This is a textbook example of where the Lacey Act was rightly applied to protect the future of an industry by preventing exploitation today.

A jury in Alabama and two federal courts found the defendants guilty in this case. They had all of the protections of the American court system, and their convictions have been upheld. As can be the case where other nations' laws come into play, especially when millions of dollars, prison time, and lots of lawyers are involved, this can be complex. Complexity, however, does not mean that there was injustice.

The United States also has fishing laws, as well as laws to protect our other limited and precious natural resources. I suspect that if foreign fishermen smuggled 400,000 pounds of Maine lobsters or illegally harvested wood from Oregon, worth millions of dollars, from our country, that Senator Paul and I would want them brought to justice, even if, especially if, they fled our jurisdiction. Laws such as the Lacey Act exist to protect the future of our industry and our environment.