04/27/14 7:00am
04/27/2014 7:00 AM
Katharine Schroeder File Photo

Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file

It’s Thursday morning and I like to go to the Sterlington and have coffee and read the paper. There are several articles on the fishing village of Greenport.

I am a commercial fisherman, and to be honest, it raises my blood pressure and turns my stomach that Greenport claims the fame as a fishing port. Unfortunately, it seems the village is more interested in being called a fishing village than actually being one. (more…)

03/01/13 3:00pm
03/01/2013 3:00 PM
MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | The Intuition II, shown here in 2012, is one of the largest private yachts in the world, docked each summer across the bay in Sag Harbor.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | The Intuition II, shown here in 2012, is one of the largest private yachts in the world. It’s docked each summer across the bay in Sag Harbor.

The Greenport Village Board voted Monday night to approve on electrical upgrades to the east pier at Mitchell Park Marina, a project that could cost as much as $400,000.

The village will pay for the work by floating bonds, with the expectation that some of the expense will be recovered through increased revenue from the rental of docks with upgraded electrical connections, Mayor David Nyce said at Monday’s meeting.

The move is aimed at luring mega yachts, some of whose captains are in negotiations to help Greenport foot the bill for the electrical power, to the deepwater port, the mayor said.

Many of those mega yachts dock part-time in Sag Harbor, but when their owners aren’t on board, professional captains and crews have the option to dock where they please, said Mr. Nyce, adding that many captains prefer to be in Greenport.

“The owners don’t care but the crews would prefer to be here than Sag Harbor,” he said. “It’s easier to get in and out [of the port] and there’s more for them to do.

“We’re in a Catch 22 with mega yachts. They do bring in a lot of money,” said Mr. Nyce, adding that the yachts also require expanded services. “I’m comfortable we’ll realize a return on that investment.”

Also at Monday’s board meeting, fisherman Sidney Smith asked the board why they were allowing the New York City fireboat Fire Fighter to dock at the railroad dock, which he said is supposed to be reserved for commercial fishermen.

Mr. Smith said he believes there’s a severe problem with electrolysis in the water surrounding the pier, which causes premature rusting and deterioration of metal boat materials.

He said his own boat has 60 zincs on its keel, small detachable pieces of zinc attached to the hull to absorb the electrolysis. He said he has to replace them all each year at a cost of $75 apiece.

“You’ve got a lot of problems down there. There are live electrical wires everywhere, wires in the water,” he said. “There’s electrolysis down there to beat the band. I give it a year and a half [for the fireboat] and you’ve got a problem.

The fireboat is currently docked at Mitchell Park Marina pending a determination by Suffolk County on whether it can dock at the railroad pier instead.

“I’m not against any fireboat,” said Mr. Smith, “but it’s filled in there. I draw 11.5 feet in the middle of the dock and I churn up mud. That boat’s not going to fit in there. If it goes up there, it’ll never get out of there.”

Mr. Nyce said the village intends to work out the docking logistics with the owners of boats currently using the railroad dock.

[email protected]

02/19/13 7:00am
02/19/2013 7:00 AM

Greenport fisherman Sidney Smith recently received a check from the government for more than $8,000 and he plans to cash it and leave town for awhile. But he’s not heading to a casino or Walt Disney World.

“I’m going to buy some fuel and go fishing,” Mr. Smith said.

It’s not a tax refund, it’s reimbursement for the money the State Department of Conservation seized after Mr. Smith sold his catch of scup, fluke and black sea bass in June 2011. At the time he was charged with two felonies for possessing more than 1,000 pounds of fluke over the state limit and scup 5,870 pounds over the limit. He was also hit with a misdemeanor regarding his sea bass catch.

Mr. Smith pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Southold Justice Court, but since the plea bargain did not include his forfeiting the proceeds of his catch, the DEC agreed in September to reimburse him. But he just got the check last week.

“Part of the lame excuse they gave me for not sending the check was my tax number didn’t match my name,” he said. “We discovered that they misspelled “vessel” as “wessel.”

As the captain of the 63-foot trawler Merit, Mr. Smith took part in the Research Set Aside program created by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service. Participating fishermen can increase their catch limits by obtaining a special permit costing just $10.

His attorney has said the basis of the DEC’s accusation that he violated the program’s procedures, and so standard catch limits apply, was based on his client’s forgetting to send a single email.

The attorney, Dad Rogers of Riverhead, said Mr. Smith had reported his plans to head out into the ocean for several days of fishing, but early on came across a shoal of squid, which he netted and brought in to Shinnecock before heading out again. His returning to sea was considered a new trip, which should have generated a new report.

“That was a very expensive missing email and it sent me out of state,” Mr. Smith said last year. He was stripped of his special permit to fish in New York waters and has since fished out of Newport, R.I. He said he’d like to return to Greenport’s rail road dock as soon as possible.

“It’s home,” he said. “And I already paid the rent.”

[email protected]

09/29/12 1:00pm
09/29/2012 1:00 PM

He hasn’t gotten his state license back, but a Greenport fisherman charged with falsifying catch records last year can chalk up a significant financial victory in his battle with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The DEC has agreed to pay Sidney Smith, owner and operator of the 63-foot fishing boat Merit, $8,333.05, which represents the market value of the fish he brought to the dock in Greenport in June 2011. The DEC confiscated the money after Mr. Smith sold his catch of scup, fluke and black sea bass.

At the time, he was charged with two felonies for possessing more than 1,000 pounds over the state limit of fluke and 5,870 pounds over the limit of scup, more commonly known as porgies, above state limits. A similar charge regarding the sea bass brought a misdemeanor.

Earlier this year Mr. Smith pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Southold Justice Court. Since his plea bargain did not include his forfeiting the proceeds from his catch, the DEC agreed to reimburse him, said Lori Severino, a DEC spokeswoman in Albany.

“This has not occurred yet, but the DEC’s attorney has made arrangements with their attorney,” Ms. Severino said.

Although pleased with the decision, Mr. Smith’s attorney, Dan Rodgers of Riverhead, said the DEC has yet to reinstate his client’s special permit to fish in New York waters, forcing Mr. Smith to fish in Rhode Island.

“They’ll give him his money, but not the ability to pursue his livelihood,” said Mr. Rodgers. “They’re really sticking it to him. They’re making it impossible for him to make a living.”

Before his run-in with the DEC, Mr. Smith took part in the Research Set Aside program created by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries service. With a special permit costing $10 issued through that program, fishermen can increase their catch limits. In charging Mr. Smith, the DEC claimed he was not following the program’s procedures and so standard catch limits applied.

His attorney claims the case was based on a single missing email.

Mr. Smith reported his intention to head out into the ocean for several days of fishing, the attorney said. Early on, he came across a shoal of squid and after boating it brought the catch to dock in Shinnecock and then headed out again. But because he returned to Shinnecock, any additional fishing was considered a separate trip requiring new notification, Mr. Rodgers said.

“That was a very expensive missing email and it sent me out of state,” said Mr. Smith, who is now fishing out of Newport. He returns home to Greenport — leaving the boat in Rhode Island — twice a week.

“Some fishermen would have been lazy and gone out a few miles and dumped the squid,” Mr. Rodgers said. “This is a guy who has been fishing for decades. I don’t think he was ever cited for anything, ever. I think that says something,”

The DEC, he continued, has become a rogue agency with virtually unlimited powers.

Mr. Smith sold his catch to the Joe Monani Fish Company at the Fulton Fish Market in The Bronx, said Mr. Rodgers. DEC officers appeared at the market the next day and, after learning that Mr. Smith was due the $8,333.05, demanded that the company instead pay the DEC.

“Anyone else would have been arrested and gone to jail,” the attorney said. “Nobody would put up with this kind of activity by another police agency under any circumstances. These guys have guns, they have badges and they’ll kick your door down. They have the right to search your property and they don’t need a warrant. It’s just plain unconstitutional.”

In East Hampton, the DEC confiscated 74.5 pounds of fluke and 16 pounds of scup from Kelly Lester and her brother Paul, who were charged with selling shellfish to the public without a permit. They were cleared of those charges and will receive a check for $202.25 from the DEC, said Mr. Rodgers, who also served as their attorney.

After the Lesters were cleared, South Fork Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) introduced a bill to limit the DEC’s seizure powers, but that measure has languished in the Legislature.

[email protected]