DEM: Striped bass poacher from Portsmouth hit with $9,000 penalty

Found with bass in restricted area off Block Island, DEM says

Posted 8/18/22

PORTSMOUTH — A local man has been assessed a $9,000 penalty for possessing striped bass in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Block Island in June.

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DEM: Striped bass poacher from Portsmouth hit with $9,000 penalty

Found with bass in restricted area off Block Island, DEM says

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — A local man has been assessed a $9,000 penalty for possessing striped bass in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Block Island in June.

William McLaughlin III, of Portsmouth, was hit with the penalty by Administrative Law Judge Christine D. Coughlin on July 6, according to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

The case originated from a joint enforcement patrol conducted by the DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of Law Enforcement at night on June 30 in the federal waters of the Southwest Ledge. 

That night, officers observed striped bass dumped from McLaughlin’s vessel, Just for the Haters, as he departed the area in an attempt to avoid contact by law enforcement, according to DEM. Officers nevertheless apprehended the vessel and found two large striped bass onboard. 

In assessing the penalty, Judge Coughlin considered McLaughlin’s actions in both discarding striped bass and fleeing law enforcement as aggravating factors. 

Judge Coughlin also stated, “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 described in Judge Coughlin’s decision, large, often female, striped bass tend to migrate to the EEZ seasonally. Those individuals contribute the most to future generations of fish in the population, DEM said. The intent of the established rules prohibiting fishing for and retaining striped bass in the EEZ is to maintain a sustainable fishery for generations to come, according to DEM.

A copy of Judge Coughlin’s decision, including a more detailed narrative of the events of June 30, can be found here

If you have questions about striped bass fishing rules and regulations in state waters, contact DEM Division of Marine Fisheries at 401/423-1923. For questions about striped bass prohibitions in federal waters, contact NOAA Fisheries’ Enforcement hotline at 800/853-1964. 

For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. 

2022 by East Bay Media Group

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.