By Ethan Genter
BUZZARDS BAY — Paul Devitt was moving equipment from his boat to his truck Wednesday afternoon at Taylors Point Marina when he heard that state Environmental Police had made yet another bust of fishermen allegedly poaching black sea bass.
But the news didn't surprise him.
"I've certainly seen my fair share of poaching in my life," he said before pausing to finish his thought. "And it sucks."
Wednesday's poaching bust in Buzzards Bay was the third by Environmental Police in just over two weeks in Cape waters, and the fourth major one of the year, Environmental Police Capt. Patrick Moran said.
During a random patrol, police came across a boat with two men from Worcester. One of the men did not have a recreational salt water license, and the boat had 214 black sea bass onboard, Moran said. The legal possession limit in state waters is eight fish per person.
There were two alleged poaching incidents before the recreational black sea bass season opened on May 23. Police say that the vessels involved took well over the limit in both cases.
On May 18, a captain was summonsed to court for being in possession of 107 black sea bass, 19 of which were under the legal size limit, according to Moran. A week later, a Brockton man was arrested for allegedly operating under the influence, and having 122 black sea bass on board.
Of the 214 black sea bass confiscated Wednesday, 79 were under the 14-inch legal size requirement. One of the fishermen had a commercial license for scup and sea bass, but it had been expired for two years, Moran said.
The commercial season for sea bass opens Aug. 4 and will remain open until the weight-based quota for the year is met. The quota for 2015 is 287,689 pounds. A commercial fisherman can take in 300 pounds of black sea bass per day if he or she has a pot license and 150 pounds if he or she is using handlines, Moran said.
The 214 fish seized Wednesday weighed about 360 pounds, Moran said.
Moran plans to assign more patrols to the area because it is the spawning season for the sea bass and the poaching has become a concern with fishermen who follow the law.
"They're understandably upset," he said. Moran said police are fighting a tough battle. "We're putting a small dent into a big problem."
The need for that many black seas bass baffles Devitt.
"Eight sea bass is a ton of sea bass," he said. The fish, found up and down the East Coast, commonly grow to about 12 inches long, but can reach more than two feet in length. They can sell anywhere from $4 to $5 per pound, Moran said. The largest recorded catch in the country weighed in at 10 pounds, 14 ounces, according to the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Commercial fisherman landed about 250,000 pounds of black sea bass in 2012, according to the state agency.
In past years, there was a commercial season for black sea bass in the spring, Moran said, but it was closed because of the fish’s spawning season.
The two fishermen stopped by Environmental Police on Wednesday are facing charges of possession of black sea bass over the legal limit and possession of black sea bass under the legal size limit, Moran said. The fisherman without a valid license will also be cited for fishing without a recreational saltwater fishing license.
Police declined to release the names of the two men. Video.