Environmental Police snag Cape striper poachers

Massachusetts Environmental Police officer Michael Cote (left) and Major Patrick Moran with some of the 332 pounds of poached striped bass. – Courtesy MA Environmental Police.

Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) arrested five recreational shore fishermen on Cape Cod Canal Thursday morning, and seized 332 pounds of illegally caught striped bass.

MEP Major Patrick Moran told The Times on Friday that the stripers were running in the canal on Thursday, and fishermen, close to 1,000 in number, were practically shoulder to shoulder. “The blitz was unprecedented. In my 34 years on the job, I’ve never seen so many keeper-sized fish in the canal,” he said.

Some fishermen saw the blitz as an excuse to ignore the state striper limit, which is one fish per day, no smaller than 28 inches.

“There were people throwing them in the bushes, throwing them in their cars, hiding them in the rocks. We were getting a lot of calls from the people who play by the rules,” he said.

Three of the arrested fishermen were from the Cape, and two were from out of state. MEP does not give out the names of suspects until they are arraigned.

Several civil citations were issued, and fishing gear was seized as well. Major Moran said “quite a few” people were cited for fishing without a recreational license.
Some of the haul is displayed on the MEP Facebook page. Sixteen pounds of fillets were seized from one person. The fillets had begun to spoil, and had to be destroyed. The remaining fish was donated to the New Bedford–area Salvation Army. Major Moran said he was pleased most of the meat was salvaged and put to good use, but he expressed frustration that his agency is so short-staffed.

“It’s just putting a small dent into what’s going on,” he said. “We do the best we can with what we have. We only have 37 officers for the entire coast of Massachusetts, from Gloucester to Provincetown and the Islands. When we patrol the canal in numbers, it takes bodies away from other areas.”

Citizen involvement can help the MEP expand its reach. Major Moran urged people to call the MEP hotline, 800-632-8075, to report illegal activity.