So that's where those illegal fish go....
So FishPicker, remind me again about that "hard quota" for the commercial striper fishery. Whether or not these fish are full of PCBs, they were never counted against any striped bass quota, because they were labeled shad. So in just the last few days we have a pillar of the commercial fishing industry pinched for catching and selling stripers in closed waters (he has no license to fish for them in any waters), and now five NYC fish wholesalers are caught selling untagged fish caught in closed waters.
The pillar, meanwhile, says he's only a bit player on the catching end.
"It's just like guns. You can buy them legally and you can buy them illegally," said (Frank) Sabatino, 54, who refused to name his buyer. "It can't be policed. It's just too big of a market."
I guess we'll just have to keep working to shut that market down.
From the NY Times 12/9/06
5 Dealers Charged in Sale of Bass From Polluted Waters
By ERIC LIPTON
Published: December 9, 1999
Thousands of pounds of striped bass illegally caught in polluted waters have passed through wholesalers at the Fulton Fish Market to ''prominent and elegant'' Manhattan restaurants and private clubs in recent years, federal authorities said yesterday after filing criminal charges against five fish dealers involved in the trade.
The investigation began a year and a half ago based on a tip that an Edgewater, N.J., fisherman routinely sold striped bass caught in the lower Hudson River below the George Washington Bridge, a practice banned 23 years ago because of contamination by polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCB's.
The fisherman, Ronald O. Ingold Sr., pleaded guilty to the illegal fishing charges late last year, and investigators have since determined that for at least three years he sold his illegal catch directly and indirectly to five New York fish wholesalers: Marlen Fish Corporation, M. V. Perretti Corporation, M. Slavin & Sons, Gotham Seafood Corporation and F. Rozzo & Sons Inc.
The authorities did not disclose the total amount of fish involved, or the restaurants that bought and then served the potentially contaminated fish. But they said that during the spring of 1998 alone, about 18,100 pounds of the striped bass illegally caught by Mr. Ingold's company passed through the Fulton Fish Market in Lower Manhattan.
Federal authorities said yesterday that tests of four samples of the illegally caught bass turned up low levels of PCB's that did not exceed the federal safety standard, meaning they were not considered dangerous. Ann Rychlenski, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency, said that even if a person unknowingly ate one of the fish, it would not necessarily pose a health threat.
The complaint filed yesterday in United States District Court in Manhattan alleges that an employee at two of the Fulton Street wholesalers -- Marlen Fish and Perretti -- knew the striped bass came from the lower Hudson River, while at least two executives at the other companies knew that the fish they were buying did not have the proper tags to document that it was legally caught.
Federal and city officials, as well as several prominent New York restaurant managers and chefs, expressed surprise that wholesalers as large and prominent as Slavin & Sons were involved.
''The demand for seafood is so high right now, people are cutting corners,'' said the general manager of the Oyster Bar, Michael Garvey, who added that he was confident his restaurant, in Grand Central Terminal, did not sell the illegal catch because it accepts only properly tagged striped bass. ''But the regulations are in place for a reason and we should abide by them. We should not be doing this as an industry.''
City officials said that the total amount of fish involved represented a tiny part of the nearly $1 billion worth of seafood sold each year at the Fulton Fish Market. But they agreed that more could be done to monitor the fish that passes through the market. That effort to do more, Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington said yesterday, is part of the reason the city is moving to relocate the market to Hunts Point in the South Bronx in the next several months.
''Right now the fish market is relatively porous,'' Mr. Washington said. ''People can just walk in and out.''
PCB's, which flowed for decades from old factory sites along the Hudson River's banks, were banned in 1977 after being linked to cancer in animals. Studies suggest they also cause reproductive problems in women and developmental problems in children, leading the state to recommend that woman of childbearing age and children under 15 eat no fish from the lower Hudson. Others are advised to limit their intake.
PCB levels in the lower Hudson have dropped significantly over the years, to a point at which a debate has begun over whether parts of the river should be reopened to commercial striped bass fishing. But even though the bass population has surged during the ban, it remains in effect.
Mr. Ingold, who has yet to be sentenced on the criminal charges, has long fished the lower Hudson for shad, which can be harvested there because they spend a short time in the river and do not feed during that time. Yesterday's criminal complaint says that when his nets brought in striped bass along with the shad, he would label them as shad, but sell them to Marlen Fish and Perretti for about $1.25 a pound, a higher price than normally paid for the more common shad. Perretti and Marlen then sold the fish to other wholesalers for as much as $2.50 a pound. By the time it reached restaurant plates in Manhattan, it was being offered for as much as $36 an entree, the complaint says.
''The problem with PCB's is they get into the flesh of the fish and the internal organs of the fish, and if a person eats it, they can consume PCB's along with their meal,'' Ms. Rychlenski of the E.P.A. said. ''If you regularly eat fish from those waters, they increase their risk of health problems, including cancer and nervous system effects.''
The five fish wholesalers were charged along with five employees, four of whom are listed as executives. They were accused of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits the transportation and sale of wildlife taken in violation of state laws.
The accused are Michael Perretti, 36, of Short Hills, N.J., chairman of Perretti Corporation and president of Marlen Fish; John McGuire, 44, of Manhattan, president of Gotham Seafood; Arthur Natsis, 38, of Old Bridge, N.J., vice president of Gotham; and Louis Rozzo, 36, of Wyckoff, N.J., chairman of F. Rozzo & Sons. Carl Sciabarra, 52, of Staten Island, an employee at Perretti Corporation, was also charged. All were released on bail, and are scheduled to return to court on Jan. 7.
The wave of arrests began at 8 a.m. as crews at the fish market were distributing the last of the tons of fish that pass through the market each day. Law enforcement officials have been more prominent at the fish market in recent years, as the city and federal government have struggled, somewhat successfully, to reduce the influence of organized crime there.
Mr. Sciabarra, wearing green rubber boots, a soiled khaki shirt and camouflage pants with rainbow suspenders, had spent the morning helping to handle fish at the Perretti operation at 107 South Street when he was taken into custody and led out with his hands cuffed behind his back.
Officials at all five companies declined requests yesterday for comment. But other fish wholesalers, who asked not to be identified, said that if any of the companies had been handling illegal fish, the charges were justified.
''A law is a law,'' said one wholesaler, who has worked at the 19th-century Fulton market for 35 years. ''It makes it more fair for everyone else.''