A Hampton Bays father and son fishing team each face a maximum $5,000 penalty and up to a year in prison after violating the summer flounder limit during a December outing, state officials said Monday.
John Berglin, 56, the vessel's owner and operator, and his son, Scott Berglin, 25, had nearly 400 pounds over the legal limit of summer flounder when their boat returned to port at the Southampton Town dock in Shinnecock Inlet on Dec. 22, said the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Police officers from the agency boarded the FV Mary Elizabeth, a 60-foot stern trawler, and found a vessel trip report declaring a catch of 210 pounds of summer flounder, the current legal limit.
But after weighing the catch, the officers found 600 pounds of summer flounder, the agency said.
Both men were charged with misdemeanor commercialization and were released on field appearance tickets.
Berglin said he plans to fight the charges because the fish were caught on two one-day outings and there was a log book on each trip, which entitles him to 420 pounds. He said he could not give a reason why the fish from the first outing was not unloaded.
"I know it looks bad, but I have a right to that fish," said Berglin, whose family fishing business started 35 years ago.
The other 200 or so pounds were not high quality and were supposed to be discarded before the vessel docked that night but weren't, he said. He called it an "oversight."
The DEC said the 398 pounds of sushi-grade summer flounder was donated to the Lighthouse Mission in Bellport.
The case highlights the tension between local fishermen and state officials over catch limits. Critics say vessels from other states trolling the same waters have much higher limits than in New York, as much as 10,000 pounds per trip, setting up what Long Islanders consider an unfair disadvantage. Berglin said authorities boarded his ship at 9 p.m. and unfairly charged his son, who is a crew member and had no authority over how much was caught. "They didn't give us any time to explain," he said. "These guys come in with their shaved heads and tactical gear, like they're looking for Osama bin Laden. They're out to look like crime stoppers. We're made to look like criminals."