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Friday, December 02, 2016

NY Conservation Officers Have a Busy First Half of November

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law, protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2015, the 268 ECOs across the state responded to 25,000 calls and issued 22,000 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Exotic Bird Seizure - New York County
On Nov. 10, ECO Adam Johnson received information from Region 2 investigators regarding the sale of a White Cockatoo taxidermy mount from a store in Lower Manhattan. The White Cockatoo is a threatened species, therefore making it illegal to possess or sell any part of the bird. Officers Johnson, Spencer Noyes, and Wes Leubner went to the store where the White Cockatoo was on display along with numerous exotic animal mounts. After confirming the store had no permit to possess or sell the White Cockatoo mount, the bird was seized and the owner of the store received two summonses for illegal commercialization of wildlife and the possession/sale of threatened or endangered species or parts.

Lake Ontario Tributaries Popular for Illegal Fishing - Monroe County
On the night of Nov. 11, Lt. William Powell, ECOs Brian Wade, John Lutz, John Stansfield, Todd Smith, Eoin Snowdon, and Joshua Wolgast conducted a saturation patrol in response to complaints of subjects sneaking into Lake Ontario tributaries to spear and net spawning trout. It was a busy night and by 4 a.m. the following morning, ECOs apprehended seven individuals from Rochester, New York City, and New Jersey, seized 16 illegal fish, and wrote a total of 18 tickets for taking over the limit of brown trout, taking fish by means other than angling (spearing), fishing during closed hours, failing to comply with the lawful order of a Conservation Officer, and trespassing. Three coolers full of fish were seized as evidence and all subjects were issued tickets returnable to the Town of Webster Court.
ECO's with illegally caught trout

Striped Bass Seizure - Kings County
On Nov. 16, ECOs Mary Grose, John Walraven, Chris Macropoulos, Jeff Krueger, and Brad Buffa were patrolling Gerritsen Creek in Kings County on a DEC Police patrol boat when they encountered a boat returning to port. The captain of the boat stated he had two striped bass on board and quickly showed the fish to the officers. However, further inspection of the vessel located 12 additional striped bass in a mesh bag that also contained a weighted PVC pipe. Grose interviewed the captain and determined that he was a commercial fisherman, although he did not have the necessary carcass tags and other paperwork. The ECOs issued the captain summonses for possession of untagged striped bass, possession of striped bass out of the slot limit, failure to have a VTR, and failure to provide his food fish permit.

Hunting Deer with Bait ... Again! - Sullivan County
On Nov. 19, just before dusk, ECOs Bob Hodor, Matt Burdick, Melissa Burgess, Lt. Mike Bello, and a New York State Police Trooper concluded an investigation involving a hunting camp in the town of Fallsburg. Members of the family camp had been ticketed in 2013 after an investigation revealed that all of the ground blinds and tree stands associated with the camp were heavily baited for the purpose of attracting deer. Earlier this fall, ECOs Hodor, Burgess, and Lt. Bello revisited the camp and found that the hunters were still using bait. This year's investigation resulted in the ticketing of five hunters, all for the violation of hunting deer with the aid of pre-established bait.

Trespasser With Too Many Tags - Putnam County
On Nov. 19, ECOs Craig Tompkins and Tony Drahms followed up on a trespassing complaint reported the day before in the town of Southeast. ECO Tompkins responded and confirmed that the land was legally posted, but also located a tree stand on the property. Returning to the location the following day, the ECOs observed a subject walking from the tree stand on the posted property. As it turned out, the man was tracking a deer he shot while trespassing. During the interview with the subject, ECOs determined the man was in possession of his brother's DMP tags and bow/muzzleloader tag as well as his own. The hunter was issued tickets for trespassing on posted property, illegal taking of protected wildlife (deer), and possessing the license of another person. A small buck and the brother's tags were seized as evidence and the tickets are returnable to the Southeast Town Court.

Trespassing to Hunt - Broome County
On Nov. 19, ECO Andy McCormick responded to a complaint in the town of Union regarding a group of hunters trespassing on private property. The complainant stated that he had confronted the men and the discussion nearly became violent. The group did not have permission to be on the property. Officer McCormick checked the area and attempted to locate the responsible parties, but found no signs of them. On Nov. 20, the complainant contacted ECO McCormick again, advising him that two of the hunters had returned to hunt the same property. Both ECOs McCormick and Anthony Rigoli responded, tracked the two on the property, and found them hunting again. Both subjects were ticketed for trespassing and were advised not to return.

Lots of Tags But Too Early to Shoot - Saratoga County
On the morning of Nov. 20 at 7 a.m., the opening weekend of the Southern Zone regular season for deer hunting, ECOs Rob Higgins and Steve Shaw responded to a call from a complainant who had witnessed a man shoot at a group of deer in the dark approximately 30 minutes before the start of legal hunting hours. The complainant confronted the hunter and his father about the legality and danger of the incident, but the two men scoffed at the subject. The ECOs found the deer that the hunter had shot - a nine-point buck field dressed at 210 pounds. The hunter and his father were interviewed and ECOs verified that the taking was illegal. The man who shot the deer was issued tickets for hunting deer during closed hours and killing a wild deer except as permitted by the Conservation Law. The deer was seized as evidence and donated to the Saratoga County Venison Donation Program. All charges are pending in the Town of Ballston Court.


If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Three Plead Guilty to Trafficking in More Than $740,000 Worth of Glass Eels

Three individuals pleaded guilty in federal district court in Charleston, South Carolina, to trafficking more than $740,000 worth of juvenile American eels aka “elvers” or “glass eels,” in violation of the Lacey Act.  Harry Wertan, Jr., Mark Weihe and Jay James each pleaded guilty to selling or transporting elvers in interstate commerce, which they had harvested illegally, or knew had been harvested illegally, in South Carolina.
 
The pleas were the result of “Operation Broken Glass,” a multi-jurisdiction U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigation into the illegal trafficking of American eels.  To date, the investigation has resulted in guilty pleas for ten individuals whose combined conduct resulted in the illegal trafficking of more than $2.6 million worth of elvers.

The guilty pleas were announced today by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Beth Drake for the District of South Carolina, and Director Dan Ashe of the USFWS.

“We will not allow the rivers of the United States to be the poaching grounds for international seafood markets,” said Assistant Attorney General Cruden. “The American eel is an important but limited natural and economic resource that must be protected.  Trafficking only undercuts the toil and honest efforts of those who obey the law.”

“This case underscores the role U.S. citizens often play in wildlife trafficking and demonstrates that this deadly trade does not solely impact large, charismatic mammals in distant countries,” said Director Dan Ashe for USFWS. “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement agents work tirelessly to save wildlife from the threat traffickers pose here at home, and together with the Department of Justice, bring these individuals to justice for their illegal activities.”

Eels are highly valued in east Asia for human consumption.  Historically, Japanese and European eels were harvested to meet this demand; however, overfishing has led to a decline in the population of these eels.  As a result, harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the void resulting from the decreased number of Japanese and European eels.

American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, an area of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded on all sides by ocean currents.  They then travel as larvae from the Sargasso to the coastal waters of the eastern United States, where they enter a juvenile or elver stage, swim upriver and grow to adulthood in fresh water.  Elvers are exported for aquaculture in east Asia, where they are raised to adult size and sold for food.  Harvesters and exporters of American eels in the United States can sell elvers to east Asia for more than $2000 per pound.

Because of the threat of overfishing, elver harvesting is prohibited in the United States in all but three states: Maine, South Carolina and Florida.  Maine and South Carolina heavily regulate elver fisheries, requiring that individuals be licensed and report all quantities of harvested eels to state authorities.  Although Florida does not have specific elver-related regulations, the limited population of elvers in Florida waters makes commercial eel fishing impossible.

“This investigation is an outstanding example of the dedication and ingenuity shown by multiple agencies working together to expose and curtail the illegal trade of American eels,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Luis Santiago Southeast Region for USFWS. “Today’s pleas are a success in our collective efforts to conserve and protect an important American fishery.”
 
“Today’s pleas in the illegal trade of American Eels are a tremendous step in preserving this important fishery,” said Colonel Chisolm Frampton for the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Law Enforcement Division.  “A multitude of state and federal agencies did outstanding work to bring this case to successful conclusion.”

The offenses in the case are felonies under the Lacey Act, each carrying a maximum penalty of five years’ incarceration, a fine of up to $250,000 or up to twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss, or both.

Operation Broken Glass was conducted by the USFWS and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section in collaboration with the Maine Marine Patrol, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Law Enforcement, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Conservation Police, Virginia Marine Resources Commission Police, USFWS Refuge Law Enforcement, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement, Massachusetts Environmental Police, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Division of Law Enforcement, New York State Environmental Conservation Police, New Hampshire Fish and Game Division of Law Enforcement, Maryland Natural Resources Police, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission Division of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Yarmouth, Massachusetts Division of Natural Resources, North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Police Department and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Delaware River Basin Commission Approves Drought Management Special Permit

Basin Placed in “Drought Watch” Stage Effective Immediately

The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) at a special meeting today issued a special permit for coordinated operation of regional reservoirs, out-of-basin diversions, and Delaware River flow objectives in response to persistent dry conditions.

“The special permit unanimously approved today provides for enhanced coordination of operations of regional reservoirs, diversions, and flow objectives during the ongoing, extended period of below-normal precipitation,” said DRBC Executive Director Steve Tambini. “Today’s action also makes clear that the entire basin is currently deemed to be in a ‘drought watch’ stage.”

The DRBC’s primary drought management objective, which complements the basin states’ drought response efforts, is to provide for conservation of regional reservoir storage for purposes of water supply and flow augmentation in the Delaware River and salinity control in the Delaware River Estuary.

The special permit issued today under section 10.4 of the compact that created the DRBC in 1961 provides a single set of water resource management responses to address dry conditions both “basinwide” and in the “lower basin,” which is the portion of the basin downstream of Montague, N.J.

Under the special permit, the transition from one possible drought stage to another – from “watch” to “warning” to “drought” and back again to “normal” – will be based on the combined storage in three reservoirs located in the Catskill Mountains at the headwaters of the Delaware River in New York State. Releases from these New York City reservoirs provide about half of the city’s water supply and support a minimum flow target in the Delaware River at Montague established by the U.S. Supreme Court Decree of 1954.  Combined storage in the three reservoirs is now approximately 40% of capacity.   In accordance with the provisions of the compact, today’s resolution has also been unanimously approved by the parties to the decree, which include Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York State, and New York City.

Out-of-basin diversions to New York City and portions of New Jersey established by the 1954 decree will be reduced depending upon the drought stages defined by the special permit.  However, a reserve “bank” of water established by the decree parties over the course of the past year in anticipation of a dry period such as the current one will be available, allowing New Jersey to minimize the effects of possible diversion reductions.

The Delaware River flow objective at Montague and a second flow objective at Trenton, N.J. will also be reduced and will be dependent on the location of the “salt line” in the Delaware River Estuary if the basin enters into the most serious “drought” stage of operations.

The purpose of the Trenton flow objective is to control the movement of the “salt line” or “salt front” in the tidal Delaware River.  Adequate freshwater flowing downstream is needed to repel the upstream advancement of “salty” or “brackish” water from Delaware Bay to keep it away from drinking water intakes serving residents in Philadelphia and New Jersey and industrial intakes along the river.

“As of Nov. 20, the salt front is 19 river miles upstream from its normal location for the month despite significant freshwater reservoir releases,” said Tambini. “The current salt front location is still 21 miles downstream of water supply intakes in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.”

Under the “drought watch” stage operations initiated today, several hydroelectric, recreation, and federal reservoirs may be requested to either store or release water.  In addition, releases may be required from Merrill Creek Reservoir, a facility in Warren County, N.J. constructed by a consortium of electric utilities, to replace evaporative losses caused by power generation.

The DRBC held a public hearing on Nov. 9 to solicit public input on the persistent dry conditions throughout the basin and how to address them, as required by the compact before being able to take today’s action.

The below-normal precipitation totals throughout most of the Delaware River Basin, with the resulting effects on streamflows, groundwater levels, reservoir storage, and soil moisture, have prompted New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York to declare drought watches or warnings under their respective drought operating plans in 36 of the 42 counties that lie entirely or partially in the basin.

The DRBC is urging all water users to fully cooperate with requests by the basin states to curb water use where drought watches and warnings have been issued and is encouraging all basin water users to maximize water efficiency wherever possible. “Over 15 million people rely on waters of the Delaware River Basin,” said Tambini. “During times of shortage, they also rely upon coordinated action by the basin states, decree parties, and federal government jointly through the DRBC to meet the basin’s drought management objectives.”

The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the 13,539 square-mile Delaware River Basin without regard to political boundaries. The five commission members are the governors of the basin states (Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania) and the commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' North Atlantic Division, who represents the federal government.

More information, including links to basin state drought pages, updates about water resource conditions, and water savings tips, can be found at www.drbc.net.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Delaware River Basin Commission Is Holding A Special Drought Meeting


Meeting to be Held November 23, 2016 at 11 AM in DRBC's Goddard Room
 
The DRBC will hold a special meeting for the purpose of considering a resolution pursuant to section 10.4 of the Delaware River Basin Compact to preserve and protect water supplies during the present dry conditions by means of coordinated actions to manage out-of-basin diversions, regional reservoir releases, and Delaware River flow objectives. The Commissioners will have the option of attending this meeting via teleconference.

DATE: The special meeting will take place on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 at 11:00 a.m. and is expected to last for less than one hour.

LOCATION: The meeting is open to the public and will take place in the Goddard Room of the Commission’s office building at 25 State Police Drive in West Trenton, New Jersey. Directions can be found at http://www.nj.gov/drbc/contact/directions/. Please note that web-based map applications do not provide reliable directions to DRBC’s office building.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: The Commission will consider action pursuant to section 10.4 of the Delaware River Basin Compact, which would enable it to implement a coordinated response to dry conditions throughout the basin. In particular, the resolution would empower the Commission to provide for the conservation of regional reservoir storage through phased reductions in diversions, reservoir releases, and flow objectives for purposes of water supply and flow augmentation in the Delaware River and salinity control in the Delaware River Estuary.

In anticipation of the need to consider action under section 10.4, the Commission on November 9, 2016 conducted a public hearing on the persistent dry conditions throughout the basin and how to address them. There will be no opportunity for public comment at the special meeting on November 23.

The proposed resolution will be posted as soon as it becomes available. Reservoir storage and relevant drought related information is available via http://www.nj.gov/drbc/hydrological/drought/index.html

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Pamela Bush, Commission Secretary and Assistant General Counsel, DRBC, at pamela.bush@drbc.nj.gov.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Cold Facts on the ‘120-Degree Rule’

You may have put your boat away for the season, but the occasional warm fall day still brings plenty of paddlers out on the water. Knowing when to wear the thermal protection offered by a dry- or wetsuit is key. However, a long-assumed guideline meant to help paddlers make the right decision, sometimes known as the “120-degree rule,” may instead put paddlers in danger.

The 120-degree rule adds the air and water temperatures to determine when thermal protection is required. It assumes that if the total is above 120 F, that no dry- or wet-suit is needed.

“Using this simple formula,” says BoatUS Foundation Assistant Director of Boating Safety Ted Sensenbrenner, “a paddler could mistakenly believe that if air temperature is the low 70s and water temperature is hovering around the low 50s, that thermal protection is not necessary. That could not be farther from the truth.”

Sensenbrenner says that warm fall or spring days give paddlers a false sense of security. “Water temperatures have plunged, but the warm sun on your face hides the reality that accidentally going overboard at this time of year could quickly lead to trouble.”

According to research, sudden cold-water immersion can kill in several ways: involuntary gasp reflex and hyperventilation, cold incapacitation, and immersion hypothermia. Not wearing a life jacket compounds the drowning risk.

A word to the wise? “Always wear a life jacket when in an open boat or on deck, and consider the water temperature when dressing for your next boating adventure,” says Sensenbrenner. For more on cold-water boating including what to wear, go to BoatUS.org/cold-water-boating.

Friday, November 04, 2016

New York DEC Emergency Regulation Prohibits Fishing for All Species in Sections of the Esopus Creek & Ashokan Reservoir:

Emergency Regulations Prohibit Fishing from 11/4/16 until 1/31/17


Effective 11/2/16, a new DEC Emergency Regulation prohibits fishing for all species in the following sections of the upper Esopus creek and Ashokan reservoir:

- from the Shandaken Tunnel outlet in Allaben, to a downstream boundary in the Ashokan Reservoir from the mouth of Traver Hollow stream due east to the old railroad causeway (see attached PDF for map of area affected by the regulation).

This Emergency Regulation is in effect until January 31, 2107.

Due to prolonged dry conditions, the Esopus Creek and its tributary streams are experiencing very low water flow, creating a stressful environment for trout. Additional stress on these fish from angling may impact their ability to spawn and produce the next generation of trout.

Low water conditions on the Esopus Creek


Thursday, November 03, 2016

Three Salmon Poachers Arrested After Early-Morning Chase

Three men suspected of poaching during the annual salmon run were arrested the morning of November 2, after leading police on a wild chase in the woods in Niagara County.

The incident occurred just after 2 a.m. when DEC Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) were conducting a night patrol along the Lake Ontario shoreline and its tributaries.

ECOs Roger Ward and Nathan Ver Hague were checking the Burt Dam area of 18-mile Creek in Newfane when they noticed several large garbage bags piled on a pathway. The officers inspected the bags and found them loaded with freshly caught salmon.

At the same time, a pickup truck slowly drove by the area. Two men approached on foot and ECO Ward revealed himself and ordered the men to stop. The men took off running through the woods. ECO Ward apprehended one suspect hiding in the brush, but as ECO Ver Hague chased the other down to the creek, the man dove in and swam off. The Niagara County Sheriff's Department was called for assistance.

Deputy Matt Grainge responded and located a pickup truck a short distance away matching the description given by the ECOs. The driver was sitting inside awaiting a call from the other two men.

Deputies Keith Hetrick, John Vosberg and a K-9 officer tracked the suspect who swam across the creek and eventually located him attempting to climb up a gorge. He was taken into custody.

A total of 69 salmon ranging in size from 5 to 35 pounds had been poached from the creek, the subjects using a weighted treble hook and net to snag the fish.

The three men - Sergey Yatchuk, 41, of 55 Applewood Ln., Getzville, Petro Parfenyk, 29, of 2204 Prospect Ave., Erie, Penn., and Mikhail F. Sakalosh, 39, of 8322 Taylor Colquitt Rd., Spartanburg, S.C. - were charged with 32 violations, including fishing without a license, possessing foul-hooked fish, taking fish by snatching, taking fish in excess of daily limit, and illegal fishing at night.

The three suspects were remanded to the county jail in lieu of bail, $1,100 for Parfenyk and Sakalosh and $1,000 for Yatchuk.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Seven Men Plead Guilty for Illegally Harvesting and Selling American Eels

Between the dates of October 4 and October 6, seven individuals pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Portland, Maine, to trafficking more than $1.9 million worth of juvenile American eels, also known as “elvers,” in violation of the Lacey Act.

Yarann Im, Mark Green, John Pinkham, Thomas Reno, Michael Bryant and George Anestis each pleaded guilty to selling or transporting elvers in interstate commerce, that they had harvested illegally, or knew had been harvested illegally, in various East Coast states, including Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, among others.  Thomas Choi pleaded guilty to exporting elvers that he knew had been harvested illegally in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and elsewhere.

The guilty pleas were announced today by Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Director Dan Ashe of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).  The pleas were the result of “Operation Broken Glass,” a multi-jurisdiction USFWS investigation into the illegal trafficking of American eels.

“Without the robust enforcement of our nation’s wildlife laws, trafficking in species like the protected American eel will undermine vital marine resources to the point of no return,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The American eel is a unique and economically important species in river systems along the U.S. east coast.  These convictions should send a strong message that we will investigate and prosecute poaching as a serious crime, standing side by side with our state law enforcement partners.”

“Skyrocketing prices for juvenile American eels in Asia have led to a surge in poaching and trafficking in this unique species, threatening to wipe it out in the rivers of the Northeast,” said Director Ashe.  “The prosecution of these poachers demonstrates our resolve to work with our state and federal law enforcement partners to halt illegal trade in American eels and sustain the species for future generations.  The success and scope of Operation Broken Glass would not have been possible without this unparalleled collaboration, which will serve as a model for future investigations.”

“Elver landings are one of Maine’s largest revenue producing marine resources,” said Maine Marine Patrol Colonel Jon Cornish.  “Strong enforcement of both state and federal statutes are a key to the success of this fishery.  Maine Marine Patrol is proud to have been a participant within Operation Broken Glass.  These cases represent the results of what can be accomplished when agencies partner effectively.”

“This investigation is an example of excellent collaboration between wildlife law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local level,” said Assistant Administrator Eileen Sobeck of NOAA Fisheries.  “NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement will continue to support investigations to ensure that those fishermen who obey the rules reap the benefits of fair competition and those who do not are caught and justice served.”

“The waters of New Jersey provide ideal conditions for migrating juvenile American eels,” said Director Dave Chanda of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish &Wildlife.  “Despite laws banning American eel harvest, New Jersey continues to experience pressure from those looking to illegally target this highly desired resource to meet overseas demand.  In their pursuit of financial gain, these individuals demonstrated deliberate indifference to the health and viability of our state's natural resource.”

Eels are highly valued in east Asia for human consumption.  Historically, Japanese and European eels were harvested to meet this demand; however, overfishing has led to a decline in the population of these eels.  As a result, harvesters have turned to the American eel to fill the resulting void.

American eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea, an area of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded on all sides by ocean currents.  They then travel as larvae from the Sea to the coastal waters of the eastern United States, where they enter a juvenile or elver stage, swim upriver and grow to adulthood in fresh water.  Elvers are exported for aquaculture in east Asia, where they are raised to adult size and sold for food.  Harvesters and exporters of American eels in the United States can sell elvers to east Asian buyers for more than $2000 per pound.

Because of the threat of overfishing, elver harvesting is prohibited in the United States in all but three states: Maine, South Carolina and Florida.  Maine and South Carolina heavily regulate elver fisheries, requiring that individuals be licensed and report all quantities of harvested eels to state authorities.

Although Florida does not have specific elver-related regulations, the limited population of elvers in Florida waters makes commercial elver fishing impossible.

The seven defendants all illegally harvested, sold, transported, or exported elvers, knowing they had been harvested in violation of state law.  Further, as a means of concealing the illegal sale and export of elvers, the defendants used Maine or Florida eel harvest licenses, whether theirs or someone else’s, to claim in required paperwork that the elvers were obtained legally from Maine or Florida waters.

Elver export declaration packages submitted to the USFWS included this false documentation in order to disguise the illegal origins of the elvers and to facilitate their export from the United States to buyers in east Asia.

The offenses in the case are felonies under the Lacey Act, each carrying a maximum penalty of five years’ incarceration, a fine of up to $250,000 or up to twice the gross pecuniary gain or loss, or both.
Operation Broken Glass was conducted by the USFWS and the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section in collaboration with the Maine Marine Patrol, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Bureau of Law Enforcement, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Conservation Police, Virginia Marine Resources Commission Police, USFWS Refuge Law Enforcement, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement, Massachusetts Environmental Police, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Division of Law Enforcement, New York State Environmental Conservation Police, New Hampshire Fish and Game Division of Law Enforcement, Maryland Natural Resources Police, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission Division of Law Enforcement, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Yarmouth, MA Division of Natural Resources, North Myrtle Beach, SC Police Department and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The government is represented by Environmental Crimes Section Trial Attorneys Cassandra Barnum and Shane Waller.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

2016 Expansion of Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the agency will expand fishing and hunting opportunities on 13 refuges throughout the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. The final rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations on more than 70 other refuges and wetland management districts. This includes migratory bird, upland game and big game hunting, and sport fishing
.
In Colorado, hunting for elk will occur for the first time in designated areas of Baca National Wildlife Refuge, as well as in expanded areas of Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge.

“Sportsmen and sportswomen were among the first to champion wildlife protection. Their efforts are the backbone of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model — fish and wildlife belong to all Americans, and they need to be managed in a way that will sustain their populations forever,” said Director Dan Ashe. “We are pleased to offer new opportunities for the continuance of a hunting and fishing tradition that is in accordance with sustainable recreational use in the National Wildlife Refuge System.”

The final rule also includes opening sport fishing of state-regulated species for the first time at Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota, and expanding areas available for sport fishing at Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana.

The Service is responsible for managing more than 850 million acres in the Refuge System, including five marine national monuments, 565 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. The agency manages hunting and fishing programs to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, and other forms of wildlife-dependent recreation on refuges, such as wildlife watching and photography.

In addition, the Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, launched in 2013, offers opportunities for residents of America’s cities to learn about and take part in wildlife conservation.

There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive from most major metropolitan areas.

Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities contributed more than $144.7 billion in economic activity across the United States according to the Service’s National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, published every five years. More than 90 million Americans, or 41 percent of the United States’ population age 16 and older, pursue wildlife-related recreation. The Service’s report Banking on Nature shows that refuges pump $2.4 billion into the economy and support more than 35,000 jobs. More than 48 million visits are made to refuges every year.

“Hunting and fishing give families a chance to carry on traditions that they have celebrated for generations,” Ashe added. “These types of recreation also benefit local economies and generate much needed additional funding for wildlife conservation by bringing people into national wildlife refuges, as well as provide an important connection between people and the outdoors.”

The Service’s final rule opens the following refuge to hunting for the first time:
Colorado
  • Baca National Wildlife Refuge: Open migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is currently closed to other public use activities.
The Service’s final rule opens the following refuge to sport fishing for the first time:
South Dakota
In addition, the Service expands hunting and sport fishing on the following refuges:
Colorado
  • Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting and open big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting and upland game hunting.
  • Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting and open big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting and upland game hunting.
Indiana
  • Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
Louisiana
  • Atchafalaya National Wildlife Refuge: Expand big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
  • Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
Michigan
  • Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting.
New York
  • Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
Oklahoma
  • Washita National Wildlife Refuge: Expand big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
South Carolina
  • Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge: Expand migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting and big game hunting. The refuge is already open to migratory game bird hunting, upland game hunting, big game hunting and sport fishing.
Texas
To view a complete list of all hunting and sport fishing opportunities on refuges, click here. The final rule will become effective upon publication in the Federal Register on October 4, 2016.

Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service permits hunting and fishing along with four other types of wildlife-dependent recreation, including wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation, when they are compatible with an individual refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is now permitted on 337 wildlife refuges. Fishing is now permitted on 276 wildlife refuges.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Anglers asked not to fish Esopus between Shandaken Portal and the Ashokan Reservoir

 Low, turbid water poses a risk to spawning trout

Anglers: please don't fish the Esopus Creek from the Shandaken Portal to the Ashokan Reservoir. (see attached map for area in question).

If you live near, or fish this section of the Esopus, you have no doubt noticed how low the water level is and how brown and silt-laden the water is.

Photo of low water levels and turbid conditions in the Esopus

Water from the Schoharie Reservoir feeds into the Esopus via the Shandaken Portal. Drought has drastically reduced water levels in the Schoharie Reservoir and last Friday, DEC decided to cut back on the water entering the Esopus through the portal.

DEC Fisheries staff are concerned that the muddy flow from the Portal would hurt the stream ecosystem and threaten trout spawning which will soon be underway.

As a result, water levels in the Esopus, which were already low, will drop further. Fish in the Creek could be very vulnerable to anglers and natural predators. Nonetheless, DEC staff believe that the trout will be better off than if they try to spawn in mud-laden water.

DEC will continue to monitor conditions in the creek. We anticipate that Emergency Regulations will be issued soon that will temporarily prohibit fishing in the Esopus downstream of the portal to the Ashokan Reservoir. We'll let you know when this happens.