PROVIDENCE - Over the past two months environmental police officers from the Department of Environmental Management's Division of Law Enforcement conducted a multi-day operation targeting illegal striped bass fishing activity. The effort uncovered numerous violations of state and federal marine fisheries laws. "I am extremely proud of the dedicated men and women who serve in DEM's Division of Law Enforcement and their collaborative efforts with our federal partners to protect Rhode Island's marine resources," said DEM Director Janet Coit. "DEM is working hard to ensure the health and future of the striped bass population, and it is essential that we go after illegal activity to protect this valuable natural resource."
On August 12, 2015, DEM environmental police officers and agents from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office for Law Enforcement (NOAA OLE) apprehended Raymond Jobin, age 72 of Charlestown for possession of striped bass during Rhode Island's closed season and attempting to sell these striped bass in Massachusetts. Jobin faces potential administrative charges in Rhode Island and has been cited for violation of the federal Lacey Act by NOAA OLE. On September 17, 2015, two commercial fishermen were arrested for exceeding the daily limit of striped bass. David M. Fewster, age 48 of East Providence and John E. Linton, age 65 of Narragansett both face administrative penalties by DEM.
Additionally, seven other fishermen were identified by DEM environmental police for fishing for striped bass in the federal waters of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends from three to 2oo miles off-shore. DEM and NOAA OLE are working closely together on this ongoing investigation. Striped bass are illegal to take in federal waters. A total of 42 striped bass were seized during this operation.
Atlantic striped bass are a premier gamefish, as well as an important commercial species in Rhode Island and Atlantic coastal waters. The most recent benchmark stock assessment, conducted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), found that, since 2006, the spawning stock biomass (SSB) of striped bass along the Atlantic coast has been steadily declining. As of 2012, SSB had fallen below the management target and was approaching the overfished threshold. In response, the ASMFC took action, requiring all coastal states to implement management programs beginning in 2015 in an effort to reduce fishing mortality to the management target.
This past March, in an effort to reverse the decline and restore the striped bass fishery to a more robust and sustainable status, DEM filed new regulations establishing a limit of one striped bass per person per day for the Rhode Island recreational striped bass fishery. Rhode Island's commercial striped bass fishery, which opens and closes based on harvest quotas, saw a quota reduction in 2015. According to DEM Director Coit, the action was taken "to protect the health of the resource and the long-term interests of all fishermen, including those in the for-hire industry, who rely upon striped bass for recreation, food, and employment."
Director Coit said that Rhode Island environmental police will continue their efforts to combat illegal fishing activity in both state and federal waters.