WASHINGTON (CN) – Two fishermen have entered guilty pleas in the catch of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay, where one caught more than 65,000 pounds beyond his limit.
Jerry Decatur fished out of season, over harvested, kept oversized fish, and illegally used nets between 2003 and 2007 to harvest more than $329,000 worth of extra fish.
In an attempt to avoid law enforcement, Decatur paid a Virginia officer for information about the timing and frequency of enforcement patrols without knowing the officer was part of in investigation into his illegal fishing.
Decatur sold the oversized fish to an undercover agent of the Virginia Marine Police. On one occasion, he sold the agent 480 pounds with every fish being over the size limit.
Decatur also neglected to tag most of the fish he caught. Tagging is a way states regulate the number of fish harvested. A state issues a given number of tags, and as fish are caught, the fish are tagged. Because he didn’t tag his fish, Decatur fished without consideration for the number of tags he had been issued.
After the fishing season had ended, Decatur sold 100 of his extra tags to an undercover agent.
Controls set on fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac river are in place to limit the depletion of the striped bass population, which reproduces in freshwater and migrates to the ocean, where the fish live. The Chesapeake Bay contributes the more fish to the Atlantic coastal fishery than any other freshwater source.
Kenneth Dent pleaded guilty to knowingly trafficking the illegally caught fish.
Decatur and Dent were netted in a multi-agency investigation which began in 2003.
The investigation has so far prosecuted 11 individuals and one company, Cannon Seafood. Nine individuals have pleaded guilty.