By J. David Goodman, Sarah Maslin Nir
It sounds like something out of a James Bond movie: Lookouts. Scuba gear. Secret caches, hidden under floating docks. Horseshoe crabs.
The crabs are among the incredible riches of Jamaica Bay, New York City’s wildest expanse of water, where a running battle between conservation authorities and those who would flout their rules has been going on for years. Despite the bay’s distant fringe of skyline, it is teeming with schools of striped bass, blackfish and fluke. Crabs and clams are numerous in its reedy shallows.
For these species, and others, state and federal authorities set strict limits on how many of each an individual may catch per day — it is sometimes as little as two or three — and of what size.
And there are plenty of fishermen who try to get around those regulations and profit from an illicit catch.
“It’s a whole underground world,” said a fisherman standing outside Stella Maris Bait and Tackle in Sheepshead Bay one day recently. He declined to give his name for fear of retribution from his peers. “You go to any market, and there’s people selling fish, anytime, that’s illegal.”
“Ever see those mob movies?” he added, as whelk, also called scungilli, were unloaded nearby. “People come out of the woodwork that you’ve never seen, envelopes full of stuff, this, that, money.” More....