2007-01-05 / Community

Fisherman Arrested Once Again

A local commercial fisherman arrested earlier this month for illegally fishing off the Rockaway shore has been charged yet again with violating various New York State laws and regulations pertaining to fishing - including illegally taking fish from banned waters, fishing without a license and possessing undersized fish, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.

Brown identified the defendant as Francis M. Sabatino, 54, of 1733 East 38th Street in Brooklyn. He is charged with Illegal Commercialization of Fish (as a misdemeanor), Taking Striped Bass for Commercial Purposes Without Permit and Possession of Undersized Marine Species. If convicted, the defendant faces up to one year in prison. "Despite having been charged threeweeks ago, the defendant is alleged to have continued to take advantage of the quick and easy profits that can be made in the black market fish industry.

"With a total disregard for the health and safety of people, he is accused once again of fishing for striped bass in waters that are closed to commercial fishermen due to toxins that might accumulate in the fish. Such contaminated fish then make their way through the back doors of restaurants and retail fish markets at a reduced price and put unsuspecting New Yorkers at risk," the DA said in a prepared release.

Sabatino was arraigned on Monday, December 24 before Queens Criminal Court Judge Joseph Zayas, who released the defendant on his own recognizance and ordered a return date of January 30, 2007.

The District Attorney said that, according to the criminal complaint, a state environmental conservation officer observed the defendant yesterday afternoon on his trawler, the 45-foot Tammy Gale, fishing in various New York City area waterways- including off the coast of Rockaway Beach in Queens. When the defendant docked the Tammy Gale in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn at approximately 6:00 p.m. that night, conservation officers allegedly observed the defendant dump a quantity of striped bass off the boat and into the water. The fish were recovered from the water and an additional 90 filets were allegedly discovered on the trawler. In total, the fish weighed approximately 76 pounds. In addition two short winter flounder less than twelve inches in length were also discovered on the boat. The minimum legal size for winter flounder is twelve inches in length.

The complaint further charges that the defendant was unable to produce any valid license or permit for fishing or possessing striped bass and that, on December 3, 2006, the defendant admitted to state officials that he did not have a license to fish for striped bass. In addition, all New York City waters are closed to commercial striped bass fishing due to health concerns (i.e., various toxins accumulate in this fish from their eating of other smaller fish).

Brown noted that Sabatino was arrested on December 3, 2006, and charged with one count of Illegal Commercialization of Fish (as a felony), one count of Taking Striped Bass for Commercial Purposes Without Permit and two counts of Unlawful Possession of Atlantic Sturgeon. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison in that case.

The District Attorney said that, according to the criminal complaint filed in that case, the defendant was similarly observed by a state conservation officer fishing in various New York City area waterways. When the defendant returned to his Brooklyn dock, officers allegedly discovered approximately 872 pounds of stripped bass, 32 pounds of fluke, 2 Atlantic Sturgeons native to New York City waters (with a weight of approximately 32 pounds) and numerous quantities of crabs, each containing egg masses.

The complaint further charges that when requested by officers, the defendant was unable to produce any valid license or permit for fishing or possessing striped bass. Also, as a registered commercial fisherman, the defendant had previously been notified by mail by New York State authorities that fluke season had ended on November 2, 2006, and that any fluke fishing done thereafter would be illegal.

According to the District Attorney, while Atlantic Sturgeons are not officially listed as endangered, they are considered a rare species and there is a moratorium on catching such sturgeons in New York State. Moreover, many of the striped bass allegedly caught by the defendant were too small in size and the crabs had egg masses on them, thus depleting the population of such fish and crustacea in the region.

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