Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late August

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 2016, the 286 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the 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:

Cub Scouts Score Fishing Merit Badge - Schuyler County
On August 12, ECO Josh Crain participated in a fishing event with Cub Scouts from Penn Yan that were obtaining their fishing merit badges. The event was well attended, with the excited scouts collectively catching more than 100 bluegill and bass with their families. After the event, ECO Crain spoke to the scouts about the duties of an ECO, fishing regulations, and the importance of fish, wildlife, and environmental conservation laws.

The Cub Scout Troop and ECO Josh Crain Pose for a photo
ECO Josh Crain and Cub Scout Troop

Sharks in a Pool - Dutchess County
On August 23, ECOs executed a search warrant at a residence in Lagrangeville suspected of harboring illegal wildlife. ENCON Police were joined by DEC Marine Resources personnel and staff from Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) New York Aquarium and the Long Island Aquarium. Seven live sandbar sharks were seized, along with two dead leopard sharks and one dead hammerhead shark. The live sharks were kept in a 15-foot above ground pool in the basement. WCS staff and Long Island/Riverhead staff caught the sharks with ease, took blood, measured length, tagged them, and transferred them to Riverhead's box truck, which is outfitted with plastic tanks, oxygen, and climate control. A WCS veterinarian assessed the animals' condition. The sharks were escorted to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead for holding until the case is closed. The incident is currently under investigation.

Illegally Kept sharks in a basement pool
Sharks illegally kept in basement pool

Something is Fishy at the Pier - Rockland County
On August 24, ECO Melissa Burgess was patrolling Piermont Pier when she heard the thumping of live fish from inside a plastic cooler. A group of four people were standing nearby, and ECO Burgess asked the fisherman in the group how the fishing was going. He quickly replied that he had caught nothing. When questioned if he had his marine registry, the subject produced a New Jersey fishing license. A female with the group opened the cooler for ECO Burgess, revealing a swarm of fish, consisting of one Channel Catfish and 14 White Perch. All but six White Perch were safely returned to the water. The subject was issued an appearance ticket for the Illegal Possession of Fish returnable to the Village of Piermont Court.

A plastic cooler containing live fish
The plastic cooler containing the live, thrashing fish

It Takes Two Times to Find the Truth - Suffolk County
On August 24, ECO Kyle Bevis received a complaint of a family keeping undersized blue claw crabs in the village of Babylon. ECO Bevis quickly located a subject matching the description in the complaint, but an initial check revealed the subject was only in possession of two blue claw crabs in his cooler. The subject was informed of the regulations and acknowledged he only keeps legal-sized crabs. ECO Bevis left the area and returned to the parking lot and parked out of sight of the subject. ECO Bevis watched the man for almost an hour and noticed that on two occasions the subject was bending over near a wooden piling by the water and seemed to be taking newly caught crabs from his cooler and placing them in a container in the water. A second check of the subject revealed that he was indeed catching crabs and then placing them in a pot for storage out of sight. An inventory of the crabs revealed he was in possession of 29 undersized blue claw crabs. The crabs were seized and returned to the water. The subject was issued a summons returnable to Suffolk County 1st District Court.

undersized blue claw crabs in a crab pot
Pot containing undersized blue claw crabs

Oil Tanker Runs Aground - Richmond County
On August 25, ECO Waldemar Auguscinski and ECO Jarrod Lomozik were dispatched to perform a scene assessment for an oil tanker that had left the channel exiting New York Harbor and run aground. When the ECOs arrived on scene, they found that the U.S. Coast Guard and several tug boats had responded, as well. The ECOs took air samples for Volatile Organic Compounds, used thermal imaging equipment, and performed visual scans around the vessel. The ECOs observed no indication of a petroleum release. The tanker was freed with the incoming high tide and moored in the Lower Bay of New York Harbor.

Oil Tanker stuck outside New York Harbor
Oil tanker stuck just outside New York Harbor

Washed Up Sturgeon - Orange County
On August 27, ECOs Andrew Kostuk and Maxwell Nicols were contacted by an Orange County Parks staff member regarding a mystery on the shore of the Hudson River. The ECOs responded to find a deceased sturgeon washed ashore on the beach of Plum Point. This prehistoric-looking fish was collected and held overnight to be turned over to the DEC's Hudson River Fisheries Unit for further study.

Sturgeon washed up on the shore of Plum Point
Sturgeon washed up on shore at Plum Point

Sunset Shellfishing - Queens County
On August 27, ECOs J.T. Rich and Michael Hameline were on patrol when they received a report of individuals taking shellfish near the North Channel Bridge in Queens. The ECOs responded and located two individuals digging clams from the shoreline during low tide. The FDA closely monitors the water quality of areas where clams are harvested to certify the clams will be safe to eat. Due to water quality concerns surrounding New York City, the taking of shellfish is prohibited. Both individuals were ticketed for Taking Shellfish from Uncertified Waters. The tickets are returnable to Queens County Court.

Buckets of Illegally taken clams
Buckets of illegal clams

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).

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