Poaching at Georgica Pond

Blue Claw Crabs are the Target

Senior officer Tim Tredwell of the East Hampton Marine Patrol reported to the East Hampton Town Trustees this week. A sophisticated, well equipped group of people connected by mobile phones and social media have been targeting East Hampton’s harbors to harvest shellfish without a town shell fishing permit. It is believed these rogue poachers are selling the crabs commercially. Local residents have grown up enjoying the bounty of Georgica Pond and adhering to conservation and permit requirements. Of the 145 violations the Marine Patrol have issued to date in 2022, 51% were at Georgica Pond. The violations included crabbing without a permit and taking undersized crabs.

The poaching is a threat for a number of reasons:

  • Depleting the healthy population of crabs at the pond. Taking undersized crabs prevents them from reproducing. Crabs are an important part of the Georgica Pond ecosystem as predators and recyclers.
  • Disturbing the peace. Crabs are the only shellfish species that can be harvested at night. Bright lights disturb wildlife and residents.
  • Monopolizing shoreline, leaving garbage, including raw chicken. Rogue poachers usually work in groups, sometimes even with scouts who wait in the Beach Lane parking lot watching for Marine Patrol.
Using tongs to hold blue claw crabs
Dr. Brad Peterson’s team monitors the blue crab population at Georgica Pond. Thick rubber gloves and kitchen tongs help when handling them. All crabs are measured and returned to the pond.

A number of potential changes to the code were discussed including increasing the fine which currently is only $150. More personnel, better signage, and coordination with residents and the NYSDEC were also discussed.

Sign of crab regulations
Clearly worded signs are posted by the East Hampton Town Trustees. More use of international symbols may help.

If you see what you think might be illegal crabbing at Georgica Pond you can easily and anonymously report it to Marine Patrol by calling 631-537-7575. This is the East Hampton Town Police non-emergency number which is staffed 24 hours. The police pass the information on to Marine Patrol who will try and investigate immediately.

Anatomy of a Blue Crab
Fixed finger. Manus.