The U.S. Coast Guard Sector Columbia River has filed a Class I civil penalty against Thomas R. Siverson for operating a recreational vessel for commercial purposes without proper state or Coast Guard-issued commercial credentials.

Coast Guard Sector Columbia River’s Marine Safety Unit in Portland took action after learning about an illegal charter operation from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

WDFW undercover officers responded to an advertisement for $50 salmon fishing trips aboard the 32-foot recreational vessel Sherry Ann from Chinook, Wash., in August 2011. Siverson accepted payment from the officers for a day of fishing.

He was arrested by WDFW and charged for operating without a WDFW-issued limited entry commercial charter license and his vessel and fishing gear were seized for state forfeiture proceedings. Under state law, chartering without a license is a gross misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Portland initially issued a notice of violation to Siverson for operating an uninspected passenger vessel without a Coast Guard issued master’s license. If he is found guilty of the recently filed Class I civil penalty, he faces up to $27,500 in fines.

“Many state and federal regulations associated with vessel operators taking passengers for hire are intended to protect the public’s safety,” said WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci. “We take this collaborative agency role very seriously.”

“Legal charter operators and their vessels receive more scrutiny and oversight than everyday recreational fishermen,” said Chief Warrant Officer Howard McCarthy, investigating officer for Coast Guard.

“Charter operators require additional inspections and licenses. Illegal operators not only pose a safety hazard to those aboard their vessels and the vessels around them; they cheat the system and the legal charter businesses with whom they compete.”

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