(a) It is unlawful for any person without the authority of the owner of the equipment to take fish from nets, traps, pots, and other devices to catch fish which have been lawfully placed in the open waters of the State.
(b) It is unlawful for any master or other person having the management or control of a vessel in the navigable waters of the State to willfully, wantonly, and unnecessarily do injury to any seine, net or pot which may lawfully be hauled, set, or fixed in such waters for the purpose of taking fish except that a net set across a channel may be temporarily moved to accommodate persons engaged in drift netting, provided that no fish are removed and no damage is done to the net moved.
(c) It is unlawful for any person to willfully steal, destroy, or injure any buoys, markers, stakes, nets, pots, or other devices on property lawfully set out in the open waters of the State in connection with any fishing or fishery.
(d) Violation of subsections (a), (b), or (c) is a Class A1 misdemeanor.
(e) The Department may, either before or after the institution of any other action or proceeding authorized by this section, institute a civil action for injunctive relief to restrain a violation or threatened violation of subsections (a), (b), or (c) of this section pursuant to G.S. 113-131. The action shall be brought in the superior court of the county in which the violation or threatened violation is occurring or about to occur and shall be in the name of the State upon the relation of the Secretary. The court, in issuing any final order in any action brought pursuant to this subsection may, in its discretion, award costs of litigation including reasonable attorney and expert-witness fees to any party. (1987, c. 636, s. 1; 1989, c. 727, s. 112; 1993, c. 539, s. 849; 1994, Ex. Sess., c. 24, s. 14(c); 1998-225, s. 3.9.)