Greenport fisherman accused of falsifying catch records

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has filed  felony charges against a Greenport fishing boat captain accused of falsifying catch records and failing to report landing thousands of pounds of scup, fluke and black sea bass worth an estimated $10,000.

The charges came after DEC police officers conducted an inspection of the vessel Merit, owned and operated by Sidney Smith, 56, of Greenport as it was docked in Greenport on June 15, according to the DEC.

Complying with the officers’ request, Mr. Smith produced the vessel trip report (VTR) records. Following that, the officers went below decks and reported finding 7,260 lbs. of scup, also known as porgies. That’s 4,050 lbs. above what was listed on the VTR, the DEC said. The vessel also held 1,245 pounds of fluke, 495 lbs. above what was reported, and 280 lbs. of black sea bass, 230  over the daily limit of 50 lbs., the DEC said.

Mr. Smith particpates in the Research Set Aside program created by Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service. By obtaining a special permit, program participants can increase their catch limits. The DEC claims Mr. Smith was not following the program’s procedures and so was bound by regular catch limits.

He was charged with two felonies for allegedly possessing 1,022 lbs. of fluke and 6,870 lbs. of scup above the respective limits.  His breaking the sea bass limit is a misdemeanor, the DEC said. He is scheduled to respond to the charges in Southold Town Justice Court on July 25.

“The falsification of trip report records and taking fish over alowable limits has a devastating impact on our local marine populations and people who depend on viable fish stocks to make a living,” said Peter Scully, DEC regional administrator. The DEC police, he added, “are always on the watch for violators and individuals who believe they will be able to conduct illegal activities on our waters with no consequences.”

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