Two Maryland fishermen poached roughly 200,000 pounds of striped bass from the Chesapeake Bay and illegally sold the fish to wholesalers.
According to Philly.com, anglers Michael Hayden and William Lednum pleaded guilty on Friday to violating the Lacey Act, a law that prohibits the sale of illegally taken fish and game.
Hayden and Lednum, who were both captains of commercial fishing boats, used illegally anchored gill nets to take large quantities of striper from the Chesapeake Bay.
They falsified labels for the fish and sold them to wholesalers in Maryland, Delaware and New York for approximately $498, 293.
“These defendants admitted to systematically plundering the Chesapeake Bay of an important and protected natural resource, and at the expense of the many honest fishermen who play by the rules,” said Sam Hirsch, of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, in a statement.
Both men face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine at the time of their sentencing. They have both agreed to pay the state of Maryland between $498,293 to $929,625 in restitution.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, striped bass were once overfished in the Chesapeake Bay, but they are now at sustainable fishing levels thanks to strict management policies.
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