Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Poachers caught in Jamaica Bay, night of 5/27

Pardon the interruption to my sailing recap, but I can't resist sharing this very interesting story of a bust that started shortly after dark on Memorial Day, when police using night-vision goggles in a helicopter flying over Ruffle Bar (yes, the same Ruffle Bar where the sailors stopped for lunch earlier the same day) spotted some actual skulduggery in process. A high-speed helicopter/boat chase ensued with the crooks being nabbed red-handed back at their own marina in nearby Sheepshead Bay.

The take? Freshly stolen horseshoe crabs, 200 of 'em, poached from the protected waters of Jamaica Bay.

You wouldn't necessarily know it if you only had J-bay to judge by - we've got a pretty healthy population - but because of overfishing and possibly climate change, horseshoe crabs are a species in decline along much of the east coast. This is a huge problem for certain migrating shorebirds who depend on the eggs laid by the crabs during mating season and as a conservation measure, moratoriums or strict catch limits have been put in place in many areas that the crabs inhabit.

Apparently the guys they caught last night thought that our Jamaica Bay population would make easy pickings.

They thought wrong. Click here to read the full story. 

Note next morning - unfortunately, as Pandabonium pointed out in the comments, the penalty was pretty much a wrist-slap - first thing I'd said when I read the less-detailed Fox News version that I'd first seen was that I hoped they got more than that. Still, getting chased down and caught by a night-vision helicopter - hopefully that made something of an impression. And now they are on record as poachers. Boy, I think if one of the clubs on the Paerdegat found out that one of their members was involved in that kind of stuff, I think that person be looking for a new place to keep their boat pretty much instantly. We're all on Parks land though, don't know how seriously the owner of a marina on private property would look on something like that.

2nd note, lunchtime...A friend emailed me with an awfully good pipe dream. How about fines of $500 each - plus costs incurred? Heh heh. Wonder what it costs for a helicopter to chase a motorboat for half an hour?

Of course the sad part is that they were working at LEAST the night before, and the other boat got away - who knows how many crabs they have taken out of the bay? Thinking about that now because I shared this with my clubmates at Sebago this morning, and one of them instantly got back to me with a comment saying that the folks who went paddling on Monday thought they'd noticed that there was a dearth of the animals at Ruffle Bar (they're usually all over the place and they actually find kayaks attractive - the bigger the female crab, the more attractive she is to the males, and it seems like the fellas mistake our boats for some unbelievably hot mama crabs). I wonder if the poachers actually took enough to make a noticeable difference?


Pandabonium said...

Cited and released. Penalty: 500 dollar fine perhaps for them, vs possible extinction for the crabs. Hardly a level playing field, eh? Keep those night vision choppers flying.

bonnie said...

Yeah, the first thing I said when I saw a less-detailed version of the story was "I hope they get more than a slap on the wrist". I wish they would have at least revoked their boating license. However maybe being caught will discourage them.

Jeff K said...

Horseshoe crabs! They have lived their peaceful lives for over 200 million years, adjusting as their prey species evolved over time, and now they face their worst threat ever from crass human greed. A few years ago New Jersey and Delaware squabbled about a mutual capture ban that was required to protect the huge number of them living in Delaware Bay. In the time it took to resolve that, the number of red knots (the primary bird species that needs to eat their eggs on their way back from Chile) plummeted. All the eastern states need a common law with real sanctions (like $500 per incident, license revocation as you mentioned) to stop this slaughter. Surely these ancient creatures can live in peace and the cheap thieves will move on, if our esteemed legislators can just work in tandem for a hot second. I doubt the crab thieves have a lobbyist...