Billy Wells, the partial owner of the Venice, Louisiana-based Mexican Gulf Fishing Company, told an intrusive federal agent what a lot of aggrieved business owners are sometimes too timid to say.
Wells and his 14-member staff transport sightseers and recreational fishermen into the Gulf of Mexico. As reported this week, charter boat captains must, per federal law, spend their own money to install expensive GPS-tracking equipment onto their vessels. The feds want to track those captains and their every move.
“I had one conversation with a federal employee. I tried to express to him how would he like it if we felt that we, as the taxpayers, thought he wasn’t quite doing his job and was taking too long of a lunch break. I said ‘Man, I think you’re not doing your job. We are not getting our money out of you, so we will make you put a tracker on your vehicle to track you every second of every day to make sure you are where you are supposed to be and doing what you are supposed to do,” the Louisiana businessman recounted to The Hayride on Tuesday.
“Oh, and by the way, you have to buy the tracker and you have to track yourself.’ He said ‘It’s not the same thing.’ I said ‘OK, explain to me how it’s not the same thing.’ He says ‘Well, you don’t have to fish in federal waters.’ I said ‘OK, you don’t have to work for the federal government.’”
(Insert mic drop here)
Three years ago, Wells and other charter boat captains, unhappy with the federal mandate, filed a class-action complaint against the federal government in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Late last month, the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the feds “very likely violated the Fourth Amendment.”
Wells went on to say the feds don’t need to know how many people he took out on a boat for any given day. They don’t need to know how many gallons of gasoline his company burned that day. And, for that matter, the feds also don’t need to know how much he paid for the gas to power his boat.
The businessman went on to call the federal mandates “just a bunch of intrusive questions” and “too much big brother.”
Members of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) imposed and enforce the policy. They say it doesn’t matter whether the captains use their boats for commercial or personal purposes.
“Here in America, I was always taught to believe you are innocent until proven guilty. You don’t run around putting ankle monitors on everybody just to track them and make sure they aren’t doing something wrong,” Wells said.
“Typically, you wait until they do something wrong, and then you put the ankle monitor on them. But that’s not how the government saw it. Thankfully, clearer heads prevailed.”
Wells, however, believes the matter isn’t over yet as it makes its way through the appeals process.
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