Two unlicensed Long Island fishermen and a Queens-based wholesale foods dealer have been charged in an illegal sale of nearly 400 pounds of blackfish, a state agency said Monday.
Matthew Ervolino, 34, of West Babylon and Matthew J. Savarese, 36, of Holbrook are each charged with unlawful possession and sale of 150 blackfish -- weighing 382 pounds -- selling without a commercial food fish license and possessing over the limit and undersized blackfish, all misdemeanors, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said.
On Nov. 11, agents from the agency found Ervolino and Savarese as they began weighing fish before exchanging money with Ding Hai Yen from New Harbor Food, Inc in Flushing, according to a news release.
Yen, 56, is charged with purchasing fish from the unlicensed fishermen, also a misdemeanor carrying fines of up to $5,000 for each charge and/or one year in jail under conservation law.
The three are scheduled to appear at First District Court in Central Islip on Dec. 19.
Additional charges may also be forthcoming pending review by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office, the agency said.
The fish were seized as evidence and donated to the Bethany Soup Kitchen in Westbury.
Blackfish, also known as tog because of their proper name, Tautoga onitis, have been under pressure by commercial and recreational fishermen for nearly the past two decades. They have become desirable at fish markets, fetching high prices as a delicacy.
"When individuals drastically overfish their recreational limit and then attempt to sell these fish, they are not only depleting the fishing stock, but taking advantage of commercial fisherman who are playing by the rules and harvesting fish at their quota limits," said Peter A. Scully, the agency's Region 1 regional director, in the release.
In August, the agency adopted new recreational and commercial fishing rules for blackfish, in an effort "to assist in rebuilding blackfish populations," according to the release.
The recreational season was shortened by 115 days, now running from Oct. 5 to Dec. 15, with the minimum size limit increased by two inches, to 16 inches. The daily limit is four fish.
The minimum size for commercial fishermen is 15 inches.