D.E.C. Officers Target Another Party Boat

Viking Starship anglers were issued 26 tickets
D.E.C. officers dockside in Montauk after seizing what they said were about 1,800 undersized fish left by anglers who had been aboard the Viking Starship party boat on Sept. 16. N.Y.S. Department of Environmental Conservation

On Saturday, for the second time in three weeks, State Department of Environmental Conservation officers boarded a Montauk-based party boat and charged anglers with possessing undersize and over-the-limit black sea bass and porgies.

Benning DeLaMater, a D.E.C. public information officer, said in an email yesterday that the agency’s officers, along with a fisheries enforcement officer from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, had been on patrol in Montauk Harbor and inspected the Viking Starship when it returned to port. All the anglers were checked as they offloaded their catch, with 23 found to be in violation. 

Twenty-six tickets were issued, citing possession of undersize black sea bass, possession of over-the-limit black sea bass, and possession of over-the-limit porgy, among other violations. The captain of the Viking Starship, Dave Marmeno, a 30-year-plus employee, was cited for an unsecured sanitation device.

A subsequent inspection of the vessel allegedly turned up more than 1,800 additional fish in 9 coolers and 19 buckets, all of which had been abandoned. The abandoned fish were donated to the Riverhead Senior Center and the Bowery Mission in Manhattan. The tickets have an appearance date in East Hampton Town Justice Court in November. 

Under current regulations, the limit for black sea bass is 8 per angler, and 45 porgies for anglers aboard party or charter boats.

Orla Reville, the Viking Fleet’s business manager, took exception to the D.E.C.’s description of the incident and the numbers it cited. Some of the 126 anglers aboard the vessel, which left the dock at 5 a.m., had arrived at midnight, she said yesterday, and some were still on the boat at 7 p.m., as the D.E.C. officers had cordoned the area while they performed a lengthy inspection. “Quite a few customers left without any fish,” Ms. Reville said. “To say all 1,800 abandoned fish were from overfishing is not accurate.” 

Many of the anglers were Latino or Korean-speaking, she said, and may not have fully understood the regulations, and many others were African-American. Several passengers on Saturday’s trip subsequently reported feeling intimidated, she said, by what she called a heavy-handed action by armed officers.

“We make every effort to inform customers and enforce regulations, starting at the point of sale at the office,” Ms. Reville said. Size and possession limits are printed on the anglers’ tickets, and signs on the fleet’s vessels give the same information. A vessel’s captain announces that information at every location where fishing occurs, she said, and there are tools for measuring fish on each of the fleet’s vessels. 

“Our crew will not and do not handle undersize fish of any kind,” she said. “We will continue to be as vigilant as we are.”

Paul Forsberg, who operates the Viking Fleet, also disputed the statistics cited by the D.E.C., as reported in Newsday.

Environmental conservation law does not hold an owner or a captain responsible for the fishermen on his vessel, a D.E.C. spokeswoman said, unless D.E.C. officers witness staff assisting with or taking responsibility for the catch.

On Aug. 31, State D.E.C. officers observed fish being thrown overboard from another party boat, the Fin Chaser, and ordered the anglers aboard to stop what they were doing. The orders were ignored, according to a D.E.C. spokeswoman. 

In that incident, officers estimated that “hundreds of pounds” of illegal black sea bass, fluke, and porgy were dumped into Montauk Harbor. Once at the dock, they inspected the fishermen as they left the boat. The anglers were cited for possession of over-the-limit black sea bass, possession of over-the-limit porgy, possession of undersize black sea bass, possession of undersize summer flounder, and failure to stop dumping upon command. 

Seventeen coolers went unclaimed, according to the D.E.C., and the abandoned fish that could be saved were donated to a Long Island charity. Eight people were ticketed, including the captain, Keith Williams, who was cited for an incomplete vessel trip report. Seven violations were issued, as well as a misdemeanor for failure to stop dumping upon command.

Capt. Gene Kelly, who operates the website montauksportfishing.com, told The Star last week that he believes many anglers who fish for porgies on party boats take them home and sell them. Party boat captains, he said, “would probably lose a lot of business if the clients thought they couldn’t sell the fish.”