MINEOLA, N.Y. – Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the arraignment today of three Suffolk County men on felony charges stemming from illegal fishing activity that has endangered the environment of Long Island’s South Shore and put the livelihood of other fishermen at risk.
Joseph Ferraro, 27, of Brentwood; Rory Engels, 28, of Islip; and Jason Micolo, 28, of Shirley were each arraigned today before Nassau District Court Judge Scott Siller on a felony charge of taking, possessing, selling and otherwise trafficking in baby Surf Clams from the Atlantic Ocean for use as food. Additionally, Engels and Micolo face a misdemeanor charge regarding the lack of a digger permit. Additionally, Ferraro faces a violation for failing to keep a harvest record log. If convicted of the top charge, the defendants each face 1-1/3 to 4 years in prison. They were released on their own recognizance and are due back in court on June 11.
“Illegal fishing doesn’t just negatively impact the environment – it also jeopardizes a multi-million dollar industry that supports communities throughout Long Island,” DA Rice said. “The livelihood of the vast majority of fishermen shouldn’t be subject to the greed of a few.”
"Shellfishing has been and continues to be an important part of Long Island's economy and tradition," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. "Regulations are in place to ensure the continuing abundance of surf clams. Individuals who attempt to circumvent these rules put the future sustainability of our shellfishery in jeopardy. DEC law enforcement officers will continue to work to bring those who attempt to abuse our natural resources to justice."
DA Rice said that on March 11 and 12, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Police Department witnessed Ferraro unloading baby Surf Clams from the boat he worked on, the “Day Star,” in Oceanside. Engels and Micolo were observed by DEC police on March 12 unloading baby clams at the same location.
The clams were later found to be taken from the Atlantic Ocean, one mile south of Moriches Inlet in the Town of Brookhaven, and brought to Oceanside. The defendants had taken 20 full cages of Surf Clams holding 32 standard bushels each – with one bushel the equivalent of an eight-gallon container. DEC police observed that the cages contained clams under the legal size of four inches in diameter, and later determined that the percentage of baby clams in each of the cages taken from the Day Star ranged from 44 percent to 84 percent.
The clams, with a total value of $8,000, were to be sold to Sea Watch International of Easton, Md. to be processed and entered into the food supply.
DEC establishes an annual harvest limit for legal-sized Surf Clams to be taken from the Atlantic Ocean as a fishery management measure to protect and conserve the long-term sustainability of Surf Clam fisheries that generate $2.1 million annually for New York State fishermen and fisherwomen.
Surf Clams take four to five years to grow into commercial-sized clams. The harvest of sub-legal sized Surf Clam poses a significant threat to the sustainability of this resource and economic viability of this important industry. Surf Clams, like other clams, are filter organisms that remove microbes from the waters where they reside, and serve as an important part of the marine ecosystem.
The matter was investigated by DEC with the assistance of DA Rice’s Animal Crimes and Environmental Crimes Units.
The defendants are represented by J. Lee Snead, Esq.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.