Striped bass is a heavily regulated species as it once faced extinction due to overfishing. So when an anonymous tip came in that a Long Island pizzeria and restaurant was illegally selling striped bass, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was quick on the case.
The DEC began investigating a village of Babylon resident and the pizzeria owner of Francesco’s Pizzeria on Oct. 16. Surveillance was set up at the business to determine any validity to the tip, and that evening there was observation of an employee at the pizzeria bringing a large striped bass into the restaurant from the back lot.
Following an inspection of the restaurant, three untagged striped bass were discovered as well as 23 pounds of fillets in portion sizes in another cooler.
Officials seized a total of 60 pounds of untagged striped bass worth more than $600 from the restaurant. The fish were donated to Long Island Cares Charity.
Taking striped bass commercially requires a commercial fishing license and each licensee is issued only a limited number of tags, which must be applied to each striped bass taken from the water. There is also the requirement of filing a harvest report with each fishing trip. Such action is necessary in order for the DEC to account for the number of fish taken commercially and properly managed the fish population.
Frank Genovas, 53, the owner of the restaurant, was cited with four misdemeanor commercial charges, including possessing untagged striped bass, taking striped bass without a commercial striped bass permit, failing to have a food fish license and possessing striped bass fillets in a retail establishment without maintaining the associated fish carcass.
Genovas faces a penalty of up to $5,000 for each charge or up to four years in jail if convicted. He is scheduled to appear at the First District Court in Central Islip on Dec. 11.
The DEC’s Environmental Conservation Police encourages reporting of illegal activities and may be reached at (631) 444-0250 (during business hours) or (877) 457-5680 (all other times).