The following information was supplied by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police. A criminal charge is only an accusation, and does not indicate convictions.
Greenport-based commercial fisherman Sidney Smith has been charged with falsifying his boat’s trip report records by thousands of pounds for commercially valuable species including scup, summer flounder (fluke) and black sea bass, according to a report released today by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Smith, the 56-year-old captain of Greenport fishing vessel Merit, was charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor charge for illegal commercialization of marine fish, DEC police said. The charge came after DEC police officers inspected the Merit on June 15 and seized approximately $10,000 worth of marine fish as evidence.
Captain Timothy Huss of DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement said that the inspection of the boat, which was docked at the Greenport commercial fisherman’s dock near Mitchell Park and the North Ferry terminal in the village, revealed that the hull contained 7,260 pounds of scup (porgies) — 4,050 pounds above what Smith recorded, and 1,245 pounds of summer flounder (fluke) — 495 pounds above what was recorded.
Officers also found 280 pounds of black sea bass, which is 230 pounds over the daily 50-pound limit for this species, police said. The commercial value of the underreported haul could have net the fishing boat captain approximately $10,000 if it had been sold at market on the day of the catch, according to the DEC report.
“With the recreational and commercial fisherman being under increased pressure to limit their catches due to increasing federal mandates, the falsification of trip report records and taking fish over allowable limit has a devastating impact on our local marine populations and people who depend on viable fishing stocks to make a living,” said DEC Regional Director Peter Scully in the statement.
DEC officials noted that as a participant in the Research Set Aside (RSA) program — a cooperative research program set up in 2002 by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and run by NOAA’s Fisheries Service — Smith was allowed to purchase fisheries quota that has been set aside to help pay for research and to harvest more fish than might normally be allowed in a day. But since Smith was not following the strict requirements and procedures for the program, he was held responsible for normal fishing rules, according to the DEC report.