Henry Danzig is described by friends as a beloved member of the Tavernier community who often left bags full of fresh fish in a fridge in the back of his house for anyone in need. He also cooked inexpensive fish dishes at a small diner he co-owns with a friend.
But the recreational angler and Morgan Stanley financial advisor may have been illegally catching some of that fish in the Bahamas, according to court documents. He got busted by the U.S. Coast Guard in May last year with more than 500 pounds of reef fish when returning to the Keys from Cal Sal Bank in the Bahamas, the documents showed. The fact that he sold some of the fish at his restaurant was the basis for the charge that he harvested the fish for commercial gain, according to the documents.
On Thursday, Danzig, 56, was sentenced to one-year probation for illegally harvesting commercial quantities of reef fish from Bahamian waters, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration said in a statement. Danzig violated the Lacey Act, a U.S. law that bans trafficking in illegal fish and wildlife, NOAA said.
“I was fishing where I shouldn’t have been. We are all stewards of our beautiful waterways and I should have known better,” he said in an emailed statement sent by his attorney Dan Gelber, who is also the mayor of Miami Beach.
Gelber said Danzig is a recreational fisherman who gives away nearly all his fish.
“He had planned to do what he usually does, which is to share them with his neighbors, local organizations, businesses and friends. He immediately told the agents what he did and asked what he could do to make it right,” Gelber said.
In his plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Danzig offered to buy for the Royal Bahamian Defense Force a brand new 30-foot Contender Tournament vessel, powered by two Yamaha 250 horsepower 4 Stroke engines. The vessel, which has a starting price of around $200,000, will be used by Bahamian authorities to catch people just like him, who go to the islands to fish without a license, according to NOAA.
“This case is a double win for The Bahamas and the United States,” Usha E. Pitts, Chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas, said in a statement. “Not only did our two countries collaborate to confiscate fish harvested illegally, the case resulted in the transfer of a brand new vessel that the Royal Bahamas Defense Force can use to prevent illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the future.”
No jail time
In order to pay for the fully equipped boat, Danzig sold his 39-foot Contender called Bodacious, which was involved in the crime.
Danzig didn’t get any jail time because of his “extensive record of service to his community,” which included fundraisers and giving jobs to young people at his restaurant, according to court documents.
“Through our years of friendship, Henry has given me fish. It was especially thoughtful and appreciated during this pandemic when it is a challenge to get fresh food at times.,” Dan Pabotoy, a Tavernier resident, was quoted as saying in Danzig’s sentencing memorandum.
“Henry would let me know that he had some fish for me to pick up in the fridge outside, at the back of his house. I would wear gloves and grab the bag of fish on my own without having to be in contact with anyone. There would always be a few bags of fish in the fridge, he was obviously sharing with others. I can’t emphasize Henry’s respect and love for our community and our environment,” Pabotoy said.
Danzig’s cooperation with the Coast Guard when his boat was intercepted on May 9, 2020, and his agreement to make amends by giving the Bahamas a new fast boat were decisive in the sentencing decision.
Danzig, his son and three friends had 167 reef fish of various species onboard that day, but he didn’t have a license to fish in the Bahamas, according to documents.
NOAA said this kind of violation is not uncommon. “Many fishermen from the United States choose to fish in Bahamian waters due to its close proximity,” said Manny Antonaras, assistant director of NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement. “We want to make sure that they do so legally.”
How to legally fish in the Bahamas
Bahamian waters near Southeast Florida start at the end of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. Generally, if you are south or east of the EEZ limit line, you are considered to be within Bahamian waters and subject to Bahamian laws and regulations.
Here are some steps to lawfully fish in the Bahamas, according to NOAA:
▪ The new Click2Clear online system allows vessel captains to electronically declare entry at a Bahamian port-of-entry and pay for a cruising permit. Vessels must still physically arrive at that port to obtain authenticated documents from Bahamian Customs. Filing and paying for the permit in advance does not authorize formal entry into or fishing in The Bahamas, according to NOAA.
▪ You can obtain your authenticated fishing permit at your port of entry.
▪ Once you have an authenticated fishing permit, you must operate within the prescribed Bahamian fisheries regulations. Authenticated documents must be available for inspection.
▪ When leaving the Bahamas, you must declare exit at a port of entry. Bahamian Customs will provide an authenticated certificate of departure.
▪ U.S. vessels may not fish in Bahamian waters on their way home, after obtaining exit clearance from Bahamian Customs.