RHODE ISLAND, Aug. 17 – PROVIDENCE, RI – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) announces that Administrative Judge Christine D. Coughlin has fined William McLaughlin, III $9,000 for possession of striped bass in the area Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Block Island, RI The case stems from a joint law enforcement patrol conducted by DEM’s Law Enforcement Division and Bureau of Law Enforcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the night of June 30, 2020 in federal waters off the Southwest Ledge. That night, officers observed striped bass thrown from McLaughlin’s ship, the Just for the Haters, as it left the area in an attempt to avoid contact with law enforcement. Officers nonetheless apprehended the vessel and found two large striped bass on board.

In assessing the sentence in this case, Judge Coughlin considered McLaughlin’s actions in both dismissing the striped bass and fleeing law enforcement as aggravating factors. Judge Coughlin also explained: “Although the illegal possession of one or two fish may seem inconsequential to [McLaughlin] when viewed in a purely individual context, when viewed against the backdrop of an already struggling fishery and a seemingly endemic disregard for its conservation through “prolific” illegal fishing activity, such behavior, even individually, is particularly serious.”

As described in Justice Coughlin’s decision, large striped bass, often females, tend to migrate into the EEZ seasonally. These individuals contribute the most to future generations of fish in the population. The intent of the established rules prohibiting the fishing and conservation of striped bass in the EEZ is to maintain a sustainable fishery for generations to come. If you have any questions about striped bass fishing rules and regulations in RI State waters, please contact DEM Division of Marine Fisheries at 401-423-1923. For questions regarding striped bass bans in federal waters, please contact the NOAA Fisheries’ Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. A copy of Judge Coughlin’s decision is available on the NOAA Office of General Counsel, Enforcement Section website.

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