Back in September, I was pretty angry when I read that the Lester family in Amagansett, who have been catching and selling fish for hundreds of years, was being hassled by the DEC for selling small amounts of shellfish without a permit.
I followed the case for a long time, mainly because it just felt wrong to me. I just don’t get how incredibly small operations such as the Lesters’ get targeted for “raping the environment” when the out-of-control over-fishing that causes the real environmental damage is the largest of operations. Long Island has plenty of shellfish, and a lot of fishermen are hurting, yet instead we decide to get the bulk of our shellfish from China.
It boggles the mind.
Turns out, though, that Judge Lisa Rana gave a voice of reason, and the case is now over with the Lesters on top, having been cleared of all charges that were brought against them. The Lesters, who have roots in the Hamptons that date back to the 1600s, claimed that a 1686 royal decree known as the Dongan Patent protected them from some state regulations when it came to selling shellfish from their farm stand. The trial also lacked proof when a DEC official answered “No” after being asked whether he had actually ever seen Kelly Lester sell any shellfish.
Kelly Lester, 34, was slapped with charges of selling shellfish without a permit outside of her own house, along with her brother Paul, who was charged with catching more than 140 pounds of fluke. The whole ordeal sent shockwaves through the fishing community in the Hamptons. Many could not believe that the DEC confiscated the fish that were caught, which the family was planning on eating for dinner.
I’m glad to see this case gone and the Lesters able to get back to normal. What an absolute nightmare. Happily, this ended in favor of a blue-collar family in the Hamptons. It could have easily gone in the other direction.