10/16/13 11:05am
10/16/2013 11:05 AM


Four fishermen are facing felony charges after they were reportedly caught by the Department of Environmental Conservation illegally spearing 74 striped bass, valued at more than $3,000 over the legal limit.

According to the DEC, the group was caught in the waters off Valiant Rock, in a shallow area east of Gull Island, in late August. Three of them turned themselves in earlier this month and are due back in Southold Town Justice Court, while the fourth is reportedly out of the country and will be charged at a later date.

Christopher R. Miller and Erik A. Oberg, both of Montauk, and Mica Marder, of East Hampton, surrendered to authorities Oct. 4 at New York State Police Headquarters in Riverside, DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. A warrant was also issued for Peter J. Correale of New Canaan, C.T.

Mr. Miller, Mr. Oberg and Mr. Harder were all charged with taking striped bass worth more than $1,500 in value for commercial purposes with prohibited spears — a Class E felony, Mr. Martens said. Authorities said the group had 926.5 pounds of striped bass in total, valued at $4,632.

They were also charged with two violations of taking the fish out of slot sizes and having untagged fish. Mr. Miller, the fishing ship’s captain, was also charged with unlawful possession of striped bass tags and failing to display a dive flag as required by New York State Navigation Law, Mr. Martens said.

In late August Environmental Conservation Officers were reportedly on a routine patrol from Shinnecock to Fishers Island when they noticed three divers with spear guns in hand boarding a fishing boat called Sea Spearit at Valiant Rock in a shallow area east of Gull Island.

After stepping aboard the vessel, which was operated by Christopher R. Miller of Montauk, the ECOs discovered both tagged striped bass and untagged striped bass in coolers. All the fish had noticeable spear wounds in their gill area, Mr. Martens said.

“Fishing limits were established to maintain a healthy, sustainable striped bass population and violators of this law will be subject to arrest and prosecution,” Mr. Martens said. “When individuals use inappropriate methods to harvest a critical resource like striped bass, they are depleting the fishing stock and penalizing commercial fishermen who play by the rules and harvest fish using appropriate methods.”

According to the DEC, New York State Environmental Conservation Law prohibits taking striped bass for commercial use by spear due to the fact there is a slot size limit that is difficult to determine until the fish are actually in hand. This, the DEC says, is thought to be a much easier way to “secure a fish whose populations have to be managed in order to ensure the continued viability of the fishing stock,” the DEC said.

An arraignment date has been set for Nov. 4 in Southold Town Court for Mr. Miller, Mr. Oberg and Mr. Harder, the DEC said.

On Oct. 2, Mr. Martens said, ECOs also caught Mr. Miller with three speared striped bass hidden in a compartment on his boat off Montauk Point. The total weight of the fish was about 100 pounds and had a value “well over” the $250 threshold, Mr. Martens said — a misdemeanor under the ELC with a minimum penalty of $5,000.

Mr. Miller is scheduled to appear in East Hampton Town Court for the misdemeanor charge Dec. 4, Mr. Martens said.

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07/08/13 3:00pm
07/08/2013 3:00 PM
Striped bass on Long Island

MELANIE DROZD PHOTO | A striped bass pulled recently from Peconic Bay.

A New York Senate bill to extend the striped bass season by two weeks went belly-up after it failed to make it through an Assembly committee.

The Senate bill, which was approved in May, would have allowed fishermen to harvest striped bass until Dec. 31 of each year, adding another 16 days to the season.

Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) sponsored the bill, and initially proposed to have the season extended to Jan. 15 of each year.

The bill states that extending the season “will help create jobs, boost the Long Island economy, and ensure that quotas can be reached even if affected by natural causes.”

But the bill did not make it out of the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, government officials said.

William Young, president of the New York Coalition for Recreational Fishing, a preservation lobby, said the striped bass stock is in decline and that extending the season would threaten the fish.

His group sent letters to assemblymen and senators, urging them to let the bill die.

“The signs are that [the bass population] is not going in the right direction,” he said. “That’s up and down the coast, not just one area.”

A status update of the striped bass stock hasn’t been completed since 2011, said Mike Waine, a coordinator with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which helps to set fishing quotas for commercial operations to protect fish populations.

The commission will complete its latest assessment later this year and release the results in the fall, Mr. Waine said.

Mr. Young said it would be unwise to change fishing regulations without knowing the latest information on the striped bass stock.

“Right now is not the time to do it, there’s a question mark,” he said. “Right now is the time to wait and see what’s coming down the road.”

But Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, said the bill would have helped fishermen meet their quotas, even if stormy weather or other conditions prevented them from getting out to fish.

“[Unfilled quotas are] money that’s gone, basically out to sea,” she said.

The regulations were put in place to protect the bass when their population plummeted in the 1980s. Now the stock has been rebuilt, Ms. Brady said.

“It’d be nice if the regulations would come into the 21st century like the fishermen have,” she said.

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