Department of Environmental Conservation

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For Release: Wednesday, February 8, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Mid to Late January

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:

Fulton Fish Market Sweep - Bronx County

On Jan. 18 at approximately 1:30 a.m., Division of Law Enforcement members along with staff from other national law enforcement agencies conducted marine fishery checks of vendors at the Fulton Fish Market located in the South Bronx. The Fulton Fish Market is one of the largest consortiums of seafood wholesalers in the country, and the officers were checking both for state and federal compliance. The efforts of DEC and other Marine Fishery Law Enforcement agencies are designed to combat over-harvesting, disease, and pollution that strain marine resources not only in New York but in other states, as well. The inspections found significant violations with two seafood wholesalers with respect to fish, shellfish, crustaceans, permits, and other required documentation. One of the wholesalers was issued a Notice of Violation for selling more than 300 pounds of undersized Striped Bass (37 fish total), and the other was issued a Notice of Violation for selling 27 undersized lobsters. The seized fish and lobsters were donated to the Bowery Mission in Manhattan.

Some of the 300 pounds of illegal Striped Bass.
ECOs Will Chomicki and Chris Macropolous documenting some of the more than 300 pounds of illegal Striped Bass.
ECOs Will Chomicki and Chris Macropolous
documenting some of the more than 300
pounds of illegal Striped Bass.

Video of Illegal Hunting Leads To Arrest - Herkimer County

On Jan. 20, ECO Shana Hutton received information that a subject had posted a video of himself on YouTube shooting an otter with a .22 rifle in a pond near North Lake in the town of Ohio. After securing the video, which showed a clear image of the subject shooting a swimming otter and retrieving the carcass, ECO Hutton and Investigator Mark Malone located and interviewed the suspect. He admitted to shooting the otter and selling it to a local fur buyer. ECO Hutton charged the suspect with illegally taking protected wildlife and illegally selling protected wildlife, both returnable to the Town of Ohio Court.

Bluegills and Thin Ice - Genesee County

On Jan. 22, ECO Gary Wilson was called to assist with an ice rescue response on Oatka Creek in the village of LeRoy. A passerby had noticed two ice fishing buckets adjacent to a large hole in the ice, but saw no fishermen in the area. Although this wide section of creek is a popular ice fishing destination, safety-minded fishermen had been avoiding the spot due to a prior week of temperatures exceeding 50 degrees. The ice on this day extended out only 30 feet from the shoreline. LeRoy, Stafford, and Batavia Fire Departments responded to provide the necessary equipment and personnel. An exhaustive search was performed without any sign of the fishermen. Ultimately, police determined that two teenagers had been fishing there earlier in the day. Despite their parents discouraging them from an ice fishing expedition due to obvious poor ice conditions, the duo wanted to catch some Bluegills. After successfully catching a dozen or so, the ice gave way beneath them. They both managed to get themselves out, but were unable to retrieve all of their equipment. Wet and cold, they left the area without notifying anyone.

A Tip Pays Off - Rockland County

On the afternoon of Jan. 26, ECO Melissa Burgess received a tip that a man was illegally catching Striped Bass at the Haverstraw Marina in the town of Haverstraw and placing them in the trunk of his car. Just minutes from the marina, ECO Burgess quickly located the subject and the vehicle matching the description. As darkness set in, the suspect returned to his car, where ECO Burgess interviewed him. He initially claimed that he had no luck fishing that evening. He was unable to produce a fishing license and had a questionable driving record. He later admitted to catching fish and turned over a large Striped Bass that was hidden in the spare tire compartment of his car. ECO Burgess explained that possession of a species during the closed season is illegal and the suspect was issued an appearance ticket returnable to Haverstraw Town Court.

Large Striped Bass hidden in the trunk of a car.
Large Striped Bass hidden in the trunk of a car.

ECO Given Conservation Award - Dutchess County

On Jan. 28, the annual banquet of the Federation of Dutchess County Fish and Game Clubs was held at the Villa Borghese in Wappingers Falls. At the banquet, Lt. David Clayton was presented with the President's Award for his "commitment to protection of the State's natural resources and the environment and for his vigorous enforcement of the State's Environmental Conservation Laws." Lt. Clayton is the first ECO to receive this award from the Federation since its inception 85 years ago.

Lt. David Clayton talking to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on a tour of a DEC vessel.
Lt. David Clayton talking to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo
on a tour of a DEC vessel.
Dutchess County Fish and Game President’s Award
Dutchess County Fish and Game
President's Award.
Certificate of Recognition for Lt. Clayton
Certificate of Recognition for Lt. Clayton

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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