In late August, the Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) were on a routine patrol from Shinnecock to Fishers Island when they observed three divers with spear guns in hand boarding the fishing vessel Sea Spearit at Valiant Rock in a shallow area East of Gull Island. Upon boarding the vessel, operated by Christopher R. Miller of Montauk, the ECOs found both tagged striped bass and untagged striped bass in coolers. Some of the tagged fish bore the tags belonging to Mr. Miller; others were tagged with tags belonging to Mr. Miller's sister, Tanya J. Miller, who was not present on the ship.
All the fish had spear wounds evident in their gill areas. New York State Environmental Conservation Law forbids the taking of striped bass for commercial purposes by spear due to the fact there is a slot size limit that is hard to determine until the fish are actually in hand, and that this is considered a much easier way to secure a fish whose populations have to be managed in order to ensure the continued viability of the fishing stock.
"Fishing limits were established to maintain a healthy, sustainable striped bass population and violators of this law will be subject to arrest and prosecution," Commissioner Martens said. "When individuals use inappropriate methods to harvest a critical resource like striped bass, they are depleting the fishing stock and penalizing commercial fisherman who play by the rules and harvest fish using appropriate methods."
After ordering the boat back to Montauk, ECOs took possession of the fish and brought them to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner's Office for weighing, which determined that the total unlawfully harvested striped bass weighed 926.5 pounds, valued at $4,632. Felony charges can be filed in instances where the value of harvested fish exceeds $1,500.
Miller and two of the other divers surrendered on October 4 at State Police Headquarters in Riverside. Their arraignment date is set for Nov. 4 in Southold Town Court.
A warrant was also issued for Peter J. Correale of New Canaan, CT, who is presently out of the country and will be charged at a later date.
All three of the individuals who surrendered were charged with a Class E Felony of taking striped bass for commercial purpose with prohibited spears in excess of $1,500 in value. They were also charged with two violations for taking fish out of slot sized and possessing untagged striped bass.
The individuals facing these charges are:
- Ship captain Christopher R. Miller of, Montauk;
- Erik A. Oberg of Montauk;
- Mica Marder of East Hampton.
On October 2, ECOs also caught Miller off of Montauk Point with three speared striped bass hidden in a compartment on his boat. The total weight of the fish was approximately 100 pounds with a value well over the $250 threshold, making this a misdemeanor under the ECL with a minimum penalty of $5,000.
His court date for this misdemeanor charge is December 4 in East Hampton Town Court.
Individuals spotting illegal activities are encouraged to call DEC's Environmental Conservation Officers at (631) 444-0250 during business hours, and 1-877-457-5680 or 1-800-TIPP-DEC at all other times to report suspected illegal activities.