Editorial: Striped bass penalties aren’t tough enough

Posted 7/17/19

Fishermen who do not respect the ocean, nor the fish they catch from it, should pay greater punishments than those handed out by a district court judge last week.

Michael Saviano of Warren was …

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Editorial: Striped bass penalties aren’t tough enough

Posted

Fishermen who do not respect the ocean, nor the fish they catch from it, should pay greater punishments than those handed out by a district court judge last week.

Michael Saviano of Warren was fined $1,500 last week for egregious violations of state fisheries regulations designed to protect the fragile striped bass population, after he was caught last September with a secret compartment in his boat containing 11 illegal bass. That fine is a slap in the wrist, and will do little to prevent other poachers from pillaging the sea for illegal profit. Fishermen who are fined less than the value of the fish they could catch in half a day’s illegal fishing will continue to head out to roll the dice again. If no one catches them, they land huge profits. If they get caught, the day’s haul is slightly less profitable.

In this case, the poacher even got his gear back.

A better deterrent would be the forfeiture of gear, including rods, reels and the vessels they used to break the law. Unfortunately, state law does not give judges the discretion to force the forfeiture of gear in striped bass and other finfish poaching cases. While that provision exists for deer hunters and illegal shellfish poachers, the protection does not extend to fin fishermen.

Over the past five or six years, stripers’ fragile status has become apparent again and new regulations — lower catch limits, increased legal size, heavier fines for breaking the law and pectoral fin notchings — have been established to help the stock.

But without the most severe penalty for repeat violators — forfeiture of the gear that allows them to break the law — poachers will keep doing what they do, and paying the occasional fine as the cost of doing business.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.