AUSTIN – Texas game wardens are giving notice that attempts to circumvent laws regulating commercial seafood operations will not go unpunished. The message was delivered in several East Texas counties during a recent two-day dragnet inspection operation.
More than 50 facilities, including seafood restaurants, fish markets, and wholesale commercial fish dealers, were targeted in the operation. Game wardens issued more than 60 warnings and citations for a range of commercial seafood health and safety related violations; most dealt with lack of required product origin documentation. Several cases highlighted an ongoing need for compliance enforcement measures.
Inspections in Polk and Trinity counties resulted in seizure of approximately 300 pounds of illegal fish product after investigators learned it was purchased from an unlicensed source. All seafood in Texas for resale or consumption must be purchased from a licensed fish dealer or commercial fisherman.
At a Wood County establishment, game wardens seized approximately $1,600 worth of oysters packaged in 37 undocumented one gallon plastic storage bags. Other instances where investigators took possession of undocumented oysters occurred in Angelina, Gregg and Nacogdoches counties.
“Without the required licenses, permits and invoices showing where the fresh seafood came from, there are no guarantees products like oysters were harvested and handled correctly,” explained Game Warden Maj. Chad Jones. “We were not expecting to find these oyster cases this far north, but this does reinforce concerns that oysters reach every nook and cranny in the state. Texas is renowned for its oyster fishery, and there are regulations in place to ensure product quality from source to table. Those who choose to violate the law put the health and safety of the public at risk and will be held accountable.”
Jones said several cases are still under investigation and could be presented to county prosecutors for consideration. He also extended a promise to scofflaws, “We will conduct more frequent inspections in the future, and warnings will be replaced with citations and arrest warrants.”