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April 22, 2002


For more information contact:
Al Ivany at 609-984-1795

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Division of Fish and Wildlife recently concluded an 18-month undercover investigation of the illegal sale of live blackfish, also known as tautog, caught off the coast of Ocean City. As a result of the intensive investigation, 20 individuals were issued a total of 102 summonses, including the owner of the party boat North Star.

"This type of illegal activity cannot be tolerated," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "New Jersey's recreational tautog fishery is for the enjoyment of its residents and visitors -- not for the black market profit of a few."

Currently, there is a demand for live blackfish on the restaurant market. Upon catching the tautog, the convicted anglers were able to keep the fish alive in aerated tanks. Once dockside, the fish were transferred to vehicles equipped with water-filled, aerated coolers where they were then transported to New York City and Philadelphia for illegal sale and distribution.

Summonses were issued for the possession of undersized tautog, exceeding the limit for tautog, possession of tautog during the closed season and possession of tautog without a permit. All of the live fish seized over the course of the operation were released back into the water.

"DEP was alerted to the illegal activity of these individuals by concerned local citizens," Commissioner Campbell said. "In many instances, the insights of concerned individuals leads to the apprehension of wildlife violators and cannot be underestimated."

Individuals are encouraged to report all wildlife violations by calling the Division's and State Federation of Sportsmen's Club's toll-free Operation Game Thief Hotline at 1-800-222-0456. Anonymity is guaranteed, and rewards are granted for information leading to apprehensions.