$9000 Fine for Exclusive Economic Zone Striped Bass Poacher
Eugene L. 08.29.22
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has announced that Administrative Law Judge Christine D. Coughlin levied a $9,000 penalty on William McLaughlin, III. The fine was for possessing striped bass in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Block Island, R.I. This case started on the night of June 30th of 2020, when a joint enforcement patrol was conducted by DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement agents and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement agents. That night in federal waters of the Southwest Ledge, officers observed striped bass being dumped from McLaughlin’s vessel, the “Just for the Haters”. McLaughlin was trying to depart from the area in an attempt to avoid contact with the law enforcement officers. He was nonetheless apprehended by the officers and once the vessel was searched found with two large striped bass onboard.
In assessing the penalty in this case, Judge Coughlin considered McLaughlin’s actions in both discarding striped bass and fleeing law enforcement as aggravating factors. Judge Coughlin also explained: “While unlawful possession of one or two fish may not seem to be of consequence to [McLaughlin] when considered in a purely individual context, when it is considered amidst the backdrop of an already struggling fishery and a seemingly rampant disregard for its conservation by “prolific” unlawful fishing activity, such behavior, even individually, is especially grave.”
As stated by Judge Coughlin’s decision, the large striped bass, which are often big females, migrate into the EEZ seasonally. These large female fish contribute the most to the future of a fishery. Due to biological fecundity in fish, the larger a female striped bass the more eggs they are capable of producing per pound of body weight. So the killing of these large girls causes even more harm. The intent of the EEZ and established rules is to protect the remaining striped bass for generations to come.
If you have questions about striped bass fishing rules and regulations in RI state waters, please contact DEM Division of Marine Fisheries at 401-423-1923. For questions about striped bass prohibitions in federal waters, please contact NOAA Fisheries’ Enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964. A copy of Judge Coughlin’s decision is available on the NOAA Office of General Counsel, Enforcement Section website.
You can see more about the Block Island EEZ here