Monday, June 04, 2007

Fishing for Horseshoe Crabs

I wouldn't be upset if I went to a dock or a beach and saw a fisherman loading a truck with lobsters or crabs. I like visiting the town docks in Stonington, or Point Judith, Rhode Island, and watching the trawlers, and I like visiting good fish markets to look at the bins of dead fish. One of the best mornings I spent as a reporter was with Dan Dzenkowski, a pound net fisherman from Greenport, which I wrote about here. And I'm always immensely satisfied when I can fill a small bucket with clams from Block Island's Great Salt Pond. So should I be upset if fishermen are grabbing horseshoe crabs and filling the backs of pickup trucks with them?

Some people are upset by it, as I wrote about here, but it's hard for me to see the difference between lobstering, for example, and taking horseshoe crabs. I'm not overly suspicious of government regulations and regulators, although I agree that they should be watched. So if a responsible government agency is regulating the taking of horseshoe crabs (as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has done), and if their rule-making has been done publicly, I don't have a huge problem with it. This organization seems to agree. I'm even encouraged a bit when the cops nail a bunch of people for allegedly harvesting crabs illegally, which is what happpened recently on Long Island, when 10 guys got busted, as Newsday reported, here.



Blogger Sam said...

I see your point ... and at one time I was a small-time commercial fisherman. I love big piles of fish and shellfish piled up, packed on ice and properly taken care of. It's a bunch of work just to follow the regulations and estimate poundage and even the number of caught, but the average fisherman follows the rules religiously.

What happens with illegal catching is that they do it on such a big scale. We're not talking a few undersized fish or a few over the limit, we're talking tons, literally. Recently a boat was caught off lower Texas by the Coast Guard. It had a legal limit of 2,000 pounds of tilefish but hidden under them was 3,000 pounds of out of season red snapper - that's a ton and a half tons of illegal fish.

It's a shame it happens so much, and it makes folks who play by the books real mad. The only way that boat was caught with all those fish as because of a "courtesy" boarding to check for papers and safety devices. I would suspect that only 5 to 10 percent of the egregious violators are ever caught. For the rest of the "honest" fleet it is missed days at sea, small catches, and two side jobs just to get by.

1:02 PM  

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