Yesterday’s news that a poacher tried to make off with 135 Yaquina Bay Dungeness – including 95 illegal-to-keep females, as well as a number of too-short males – infuriated me and many others.
The apparent disgusting greed and sheer gluttony – not to mention blatant disregard for the regulations and conservation concerns – made the allegedly caught-red-handed suspect an instant Jackass of the Month candidate in our magazine’s Dishonor Roll page.
Langimeo and three other males were contacted by an officer around 1 a.m. yesterday morning near the Rogue Brewery, gateway to the Port of Newport Public Fishing Pier.
Langimeo was reportedly initially deceitful about his activities, per police, claiming he hadn’t been crabbing at all and then when he OKed the officer to see inside the cooler that he’d quickly sat down on, he opened and closed the lid in a flash.
Still, that was enough for the officer to catch a glimpse of females and undersized crabs, and when they looked in Langimeo’s vehicle, two more coolers bulging with illegal crabs were discovered, according to police.
Officers reported that the three others claimed they hadn’t been crabbing and that “Langimeo said he took full responsibility for the catch.”
Maddeningly, while the crabs were placed back in the bay, Newport PD reported that “it is doubtful many of them survived, as most had been out of the water for some time.”
In the midst of all those beet-red faces, I want to take a moment and give a big blue thumbs up and personally thank Newport officers for routinely patrolling the area around the pier at all hours: I appreciate it.
While these particular crabs may have unfortunately mostly died and gone to waste – a potentially concerning loss of females during what’s become “a really bad year” for oxygen levels in the ocean due to a major hypoxia event – this case also goes a long way to highlighting another increasingly serious problem on the coast, one we’re better prepared to get a handle on.
We’ll get to that in a moment, but for me this case is personal. Newport is my adopted home away from home and I crabbed off that same pier in early September.
I’d been looking forward to dropping my rings in the bay for months, ever since my wife began planning an excursion down Highway 101 to the redwoods and back to Newport.
I insisted that we stay an extra day in “the friendliest” so that I could try to catch us dinner.
In the end I didn’t haul up any keeper Dungeness over those three hours around a midday high tide, though I did throw back a number of females and short males, plus some midsized red rocks.
Who knows how many of those off-limits-to-harvest Dungies may have ended up in Langimeo’s midnight coolers.
I also crabbed here this past April and, memorably, during a storm-lashed king tide last December.
Learned a good lesson that day, I did, and came back early the next morning to run rings during a soft o’dark hundred exchange.
Somehow, despite being out there alone in the dark, I had no problem abiding by all of ODFW’s crabbing regulations, but maybe the pier now needs to have a gate and be locked at night?
I’d really hate to see that because I don’t think that one person should ruin it for everyone, but sadly this week’s case is also far from the only massive shellfish overlimit from the Oregon Coast we’ve been seeing. Individuals are in fact ruining it for everyone.
In June, Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division troopers criminally cited three guys after they were found on the Waldport crabbing dock in possession of three coolers loaded with 77 female and 13 undersized male Dungeness.
In July, troopers reported finding a couple near Garibaldi with “two coolers full of 541 clams (501 over the daily limit of 20 each),” four more subjects with “327 clams (157 over their daily limit of 20 each),” and another joker “in possession of 193 clams,” while down in Newport, a guy took the rap for harvesting “approximately 350 mussels over the daily bag of 72.”
Seriously, do people not understand that natural resources like shellfish are regulated and instead think that it’s just some sort of free-for-all down on the shore?
How is this message that there are in fact limits not getting through to everyone? Do we need a giant billboard – “KNOW YOUR CRAB AND CLAM LIMITS” – on the top of the Eddyville bypass and other coastal highways?
Or do they just not give a sh*t anymore – if they ever did?
Hopefully this new case can help reverse that and make a real solid, widespread impression that there are in fact sex, size and catch restrictions – for the record, for Dungeness it’s males only, minimum of 5.75 inches across the back between the points, and 12 per day – and that there are not just fish and wildlife troopers but police officers watching for violators.
Also, that you will pay through the nose for breaking the rules.
The Salem Statesman-Journalreports that Langimeo was “charged with three Class A wildlife misdemeanors, which each carry a fine of up to $15,000 and a year in jail.”
The newspaper also noted that Newport PD Lieutenant Brent Gainer said the judge and county prosecutor ultimately have discretion in how Langimeo is penalized.
I, for one, have faith in Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office. Deputy DA Kenneth Park there knows the importance of Dungeness to the local economy and has made an example of it.
Earlier this year Park prosecuted a Hermiston couple who were sentenced to pay $1,200 each for their scheme to illegally sell sport-caught crabs, as well as lost their crabbing privileges for three years and were ordered to pay $100 each into the Turn In Poachers, or TIP, hotline.
Gerald and Shawna Wilson offered those Dungeness “free of charge, but with a suggested donation of $11 per pound to skirt marine fisheries laws that prohibit people from selling their personal limits of crab and other marine life on the commercial market,” per ODFW.
Park called the sentence a “good resolution.”
It reemphasized for the public to only buy crab through legitimate inspected channels, as well as the value of crabs and crabbing to the coast.
It’s not just the huge haul that comes in off the commercial boats either. I don’t know how many dollars the average tourist drops, but we once again contributed our fair share during the extra time we spent in town so I could go crabbing.
Before I decided to toss my rings off the pier earlier this month, I also very strongly considered renting a bay boat and crab pots from the Embarcadero or Sawyer’s Landing and taking the boys out.
It would have cost me several hundred bucks, but such is the lure of the usually productive late-summer crabbing on Yaquina Bay.
Indeed, this is prime time, and that and the big crowd on the pier I instead joined that Saturday of Labor Day Weekend (fortuitously, friends invited me and the boys to crab in the San Juans the next weekend, so I figured that would be our boat ride) were testaments to the pulling power of delicious Dungeness.
Unfortunately, poachers also know about it and they take advantage of that abundance.
Now it’s time for the Lincoln County court system to make abundantly clear to Langimeo and all other shellfish scofflaws that there are limits to follow and that massive penalties await those who do not.