Sunday, October 20, 2013

Game Warden Files--More on the Water

One of the wars continually fought by the ECOs in New York City was the war over short lobsters.  A lobster needs to be a certain size to be lawfully taken, and the lobstermen of the New York Harbor area were always inventing new ways to get their illegal catch to shore.  One of the men we chased often was better at it than others.  He didn't come in with 20 or 30, it was more like 300 shorts.  He had a large work platform built off the stern of his boat and built it into a drop box.  He put all his undersized lobsters there and when he saw an enforcement boat coming, he'd turn his boat away, dump the contents, close the box and continue on--appearing to be just a legal fisherman.
One day we were coming in to Sheepshead Bay in Brookly for gas and realized that we were coming up behind him.  He was oblivious to our presence as we prepared to board him, but we couldn't safely board him at the 10-15 knots at which we were travelling.  When we signaled him to stop, he forced the boat into a hard turn and, as he turned away from us, released the drop box and dumped what we saw as several burlap bags, all roped together.  We held our position and radioed the Coast Guard at Rockaway Station to come and assist us.  The US Park Police Marine unit was closer and they came right over, dropped a grapple hook and came up with the rope on the first try.
We started pulling up bags of lobsters and ended up with two small boats full of bags.  After we finished with our bad guy, signing him up for an appearance before an administrative law judge to talk about whether or not he could keep his lobster harvesting permit, we went over to the Coast Guard station and began the long process of gauging and counting lobsters.  All told, he had something over 900 undersized lobsters.  Since they had come from New York Waters, we dumped them out into the boat basin at the Coast Guard Station and seeded the population of lobsters in that part of Jamaica Bay.

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