Makin’ Crime Pay - The Fisherman

Makin’ Crime Pay

Back on July 15 the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) posted the following update on their Facebook page. This was a follow-up to the initial post made on September 18, 2018 announcing the violation. I’m leaving the offender’s name out today, but a simple internet search will provide find all the info you need.

As we posted last September, an Environmental Police Officer (EPO) from DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) boarded a vessel associated with repeated hunting and fishing violations during a routine patrol in Point Judith. The front of the vessel appeared to be dipping low, as if there were considerable weight in the bow.

A common illegal practice is for Massachusetts commercial fishermen to fish the area around Block Island for striped bass under the guise that they are fishing recreationally and then transport them back to Massachusetts where they are sold. In an effort to curb this, a new regulation was adopted in 2015 that requires striped bass larger than 34 inches (the minimum commercial size) that are caught recreationally to have their right pectoral fin removed immediately. It is then illegal to sell or purchase a striped bass with a cut pectoral fin in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The occupants of the vessel had stored their illegal catch in a hidden storage compartment in the bow. Once discovered, the EPOs seized 13 striped bass – 11 over the daily limit allowed with two persons aboard a vessel.

The seized bass were photographed and donated to the Amos House, the Providence-based social services agency that runs the state’s largest soup kitchen. The estimated value of the fish, had they been sold, is around $2,000. In addition, 5 fishing poles that were used were seized as evidence. A plea agreement was entered on July 11th, with the owner of the vessel being fined $1,506.75.

Adhering to the rules is not only good for the health of our fisheries, it’s the law. For sizes and possession limits, visit dem.ri.gov/marine.

Ok, so before I go any further, I’d like to point out to you the fact that this was not the first time this individual was arrested for poaching. Back in July of 2016 he was caught with a pair of striped bass failing to receive the then newly-required fin clipping, something he is still doing as proven here—an obvious attempt to bring them across state lines to sell in Massachusetts.

Now we can dive into this offense and my problems therein. First up, as noted in the preceding paragraph, this is not the first time he has gotten caught. Smart money says it’s also not the first time since 2016 that he’s done it, just the first time he got caught since that time unless he has the worst of luck. Second, as “a hidden storage compartment in the bow” was discovered and inside it were another 11 fish beyond the two which were seen on the deck of the boat, the offender took obvious steps to conceal his illegal actions. Even a first-time prosecuting attorney should have no problem proving intent based upon this fact.

And lastly we come to the plea agreement which resulted in the offender being fined $1,506.75. Now granted I’m not sure what other terms he pleaded to, but even if you factor in the confiscation of the original 5 fishing rods seized as evidence and assume that he didn’t get them back (I could not confirm the outcome of the seized property.) then the guy is still ahead of the game in that the assumed value of the fish had they been sold in Massachusetts at the time was “around $2,000” according to the report. Worst case scenario he only needed to complete one similar haul to break even. Again, the steps taken to knowingly conceal the fish and the repeat offense should be more than enough to presume it was not an isolated event and rightfully should carry a much heftier fine.

So at the end of the day I say good on the RI DEM for the bust but as is proven time and time again, such inconveniences are little more than a cost of doing business when you’re in the business of poaching fish.

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