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For Release: Monday, December 10, 2012

DEC Environmental Conservation Officers Charge Three in Illegal Blackfish Sale

Following a two-week investigation by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) two individuals were charged in connection with selling 150 blackfish to a Queens-based wholesale food dealer. A third individual is also facing charges for attempting to purchase the fish.

On November 11, ECOs swooped in as two unlicensed fisherman Matthew Ervolino and Matthew J. Savarese began weighing the fish before exchanging money with Ding Hai Yen from New Harbor Food, Inc in Flushing to complete the sale of 150 blackfish, weighing more than 382 pounds.

"DEC establishes recreational fishing limits so individuals can enjoy a fishing resource at a sustainable level," said DEC Region 1 Regional Director Peter A. Scully. "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."

ECOs observed Ervolino and Savarese for nearly two weeks before the arrests were made at a West Islip residence where they kept pens to sell live blackfish to the New York City market. The blackfish have an approximate $2,000 value on the black market.

Ervolino, 34, of West Babylon and Saverese, 36, of Holbrook were each charged with unlawful possession and sale of the blackfish, selling without a commercial food fish license, and possessing over the limit and undersized blackfish, each a misdemeanor under the Environmental Conservation Law carrying fines of up to $5,000 for each charge and/or one year in jail.

Yen, 56, was 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 the ECL.

Additional charges may also be forthcoming pending review by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office.

The fish were seized as evidence and donated to the Bethany Soup Kitchen in Westbury.

In August 2012, DEC adopted new recreational and commercial fishing rules for blackfish (tautog). These changes are necessary to comply with interstate management measures to assist in rebuilding blackfish populations.

  • Recreational: The season has been shortened by 115 days and now runs from October 5 to December 14. In addition, the minimum size limit has been increased by 2 inches to 16 inches total length. The possession limit of four fish per day remains unchanged.
  • Commercial: The minimum size limit has been increased by 1 inch to 15 inches total length. The season and trip limits for the commercial harvest of blackfish will not change in 2012.

In adopting the new rules, DEC worked with recreational and commercial fishing representatives to establish seasons and catch limits that allow as many fishing opportunities as possible while still providing the protections needed to restore local blackfish populations. The three defendants have a court date on December 19 in Suffolk County First District Court in Central Islip.

To report any environmental crime, please contact DEC's toll free 24-hour TIPP hotline at: 1-800-TIPP DEC (1-800-847-7332). DEC keeps the identity of all TIPP callers confidential.

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