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For Release: Monday, June 9, 2014

Commercial Fisherman Pleads Guilty to Illegal Spearfishing

Boat Captain to Pay Penalty of $15,000

A commercial boating captain and his crew pled guilty to illegally spearfishing in waters off Valiant Rock in Block Island Sound. Captain Christopher Miller must pay a fine of $15,000 and participate in community service, state Department of Environmental Conservation's Regional Director Peter A. Scully announced today.

"New York State's proud fishing tradition goes back hundreds of years," Director Scully said. "It is regrettable when a few bad actors tarnish the reputation of a sound and admirable profession. We are very fortunate to have a police force which works tirelessly to prevent these individuals from taking advantage of our natural resources and ensure they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

In late August, 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. In addition, this method is a much easier way to secure a fish whose populations need to be managed to ensure the continued viability of the fishing stock.

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.

Miller, of Montauk pled guilty to the illegal commercialization of fish, shellfish, crustaceans and wildlife, a Class A misdemeanor. Miller must serve a total of 210 hours of community service in lieu of 45 days of incarceration and pay a penalty of $15,000.

Miller's crew, Erik A. Oberg of Montauk and Mica Marder of East Hampton, both pled guilty to violations of the Environmental Conservation Law for illegal commercialization of fish, must complete 140 hours of community service within one year and pay a fine not to exceed $500.

A warrant has been issued for Peter J. Correale of New Canaan, CT, who is presently out of the country and will be charged at a later date.

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.