Two individuals attempting to illegally sell 150 blackfish to a Queens-based wholesale food dealer were arrested in West Islip and charged in connection with the sale, the New York State Department of Conservation announced Monday. A third person, the dealer, also faces charges for attempting to purchase the fish.
The DEC's Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) filed charges on Nov. 11 as unlicensed fishermen Matthew Ervolino, 34, of West Babylon, and Matthew Savarese, 36, of Holbrook, began weighing the fish. The two were reportedly expecting to exchange money with dealer Ding Hai Yen, of New Harbor Food in Flushing, for the sale of 150 blackfish, weighing a total 382 pounds.
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The ECOs observed the fishing pair for about two weeks before making the arrest in November at a West Islip residence where the fish were being kept in pens before their sale to the New York City market.
The blackfish had an estimated $2,000 value on the black market, according to the DEC.
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“DEC establishes recreational fishing limits so individuals can enjoy a fishing resource at a sustainable level,” said DEC Region 1 Regional Director Peter Scully in a statement. “When individuals drastically overfish their recreational limit and then attempt to sell these fish, they are not only depleting the fishing stock, but taking advantage of commercial fisherman who are playing by the rules and harvesting fish at their quota limits.”
Ervolino and Saverese were each charged with unlawful possession and sale of the blackfish, selling without a commercial food license and possession over the limit and undersized blackfish – each a misdemeanor under the Environmental Conservation Law. The charges can carry fines up to $5,000 each and/or one year in jail.
Yen, 56, was charged with purchasing fish from an unlicensed fisherman, a misdemeanor carrying a fine of $5,000 and/or one year in jail.
The fish were seized as evidence and, later, donated to the Bethany Soup Kitchen in Westbury.