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DEC: Anglers violate fish rules on Montauk partyboat

NOAA enforcement officer Ian Isaacs looks over what

NOAA enforcement officer Ian Isaacs looks over what authorities said were undersized and over-the-limit fish found in unclaimed coolers on Sept. 16, 2017. Credit: NYSDEC

For the second time in less than a month, state marine enforcement agents have charged anglers on a Montauk partyboat with violations for undersized and over-the-limit fish, including more than 1,800 found in unclaimed coolers, authorities said.

The most recent action took place Saturday, when Department of Environmental Conservation officers on patrol in Montauk Harbor boarded the Viking Starship partyboat after it returned from sea.

Officers inspected each of the 124 fishermen aboard as they offloaded and found 23 to be in violation, with 26 tickets issued for undersized and over-the-limit Black Sea bass and over-the-limit porgies, said DEC spokesman Benning DeLaMater. Anglers can possess eight black sea bass 15 inches or larger and 45 porgies 10 inches or larger under current rules.

The boat’s captain, who was not identified, also was cited for an unsecured sanitation device, DeLaMater said.

A further inspection of the boat found the 1,800 additional fish in coolers and buckets that anglers didn’t claim, DeLaMater said. All the confiscated fish were donated to charities, he said.

Paul Forsberg, operator of the Viking Fleet, denied 1,800 fish were discovered on the boat.

“Those numbers are wrong,” he said. “That is false information.”

He said the Viking Fleet goes out of its way to alert anglers aboard its boats of the rules, including on fare tickets, at the dock and on placards all over the boats. Crew members alert anglers to undersized fish and won’t clean them, he said.

Captains announce regulations each time a boat moves to a new fishing spot. Viking has less than 10 percent noncompliance with fishing rules, Forsberg said. The DEC “got it wrong,” Forsberg said.

DeLaMater, noting that seven state and one federal officer were at the scene, said there was no mistake. He provided a photo of the coolers on the boat and read from a “significant incident report,” which goes to the DEC commissioner.

“This is obviously something we don’t take lightly,” he said.

Orla Reville, business manager for Viking, noted that there were 126 aboard and that many of them left without taking their fish because the DEC’s investigation on the boat took hours.

“You can’t say every one of those fish was illegal,” Reville said.

Last month, DEC officers issued eight tickets and 22 warnings after they spotted crew aboard another partyboat, the Fin Chaser, throwing “hundreds of pounds” of illegal fish overboard in Montauk Harbor, Newsday reported.

The boat was later found to have hundreds more undersized and over-the-limit fish — a combined 1,000 illegal fish in all, authorities said. Fin Chaser captain Keith Williams, who was issued a violation for an incomplete vessel trip report, declined to comment.

Under current law, partyboat captains are not held responsible for the fishermen and women on their boats “unless DEC officers witness staff taking responsibility for the catch, assisting with the catch.”

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