A commercial boat captain from Montauk and his crew have pleaded guilty to crimes related to being caught spearfishing in Block Island Sound back in August.
According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, officers on patrol between Shinnecock and Fishers Island saw three divers with spear guns boarding a fishing vessel off Valiant Rock in a shallow area east of Gull Island. The environmental conservation officers boarded the boat, Sea Spearit, and found both tagged striped bass and bass without tags, the DEC stated. Some tags were in the name of the captain, Christopher R. Miller, and others were in his sister’s name, though she was not on the ship at the time.
“New York State’s proud fishing tradition goes back hundreds of years,” DEC Regional Director Peter A. Scully said in a statement. “It is regrettable when a few bad actors tarnish the reputation of a sound and admirable profession. We are very fortunate to have a police force which works tirelessly to prevent these individuals from taking advantage of our natural resources and ensure they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
The DEC explained that the law forbids the taking of striped bass for commercial purposes by spear because the size limit is hard to determine until the fish are actually in hand. “In addition, this method is a much easier way to secure a fish whose populations need to be managed to ensure the continued viability of the fishing stock,” the DEC stated.
The fish weighed in at a total of 926.5 pounds, valued at $4,632.
Miller pleaded guilty to the illegal commercialization of fish, a class A misdemeanor, and must serve a total of 210 hours of community service in lieu of 45 days of incarceration and pay a penalty of $15,000.
Miller’s crew, Erik A. Oberg of Montauk and Mica Marder of East Hampton, both pleaded guilty to violations of the Environmental Conservation Law for illegal commercialization of fish, must complete 140 hours of community service within one year and pay a fine not to exceed $500.
A warrant has been issued for Peter J. Correale of New Canaan, Connecticut, who is out of the country and will be charged at a later date, according to the DEC.