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Published: Friday, 1/23/2004

3 wholesalers of fish under investigation

SANDUSKY - State wildlife investigators have seized records and fish from three fish wholesalers to determine whether their sales exceeded quotas of yellow perch allowed to be taken from Lake Erie, an investigator said yesterday.

Kevin Ramsey, law enforcement supervisor for Lake Erie for the Ohio Division of Wildlife office in Sandusky, said on Jan. 13 agents with search warrants went to Port Clinton Fisheries, Inc., Smith Fisheries in Sandusky, and West Water Fish in Vermilion as part of an extension of the division s months-long investigation.

No charges have been filed.

Mr. Ramsey declined to specify what criminal charges could be filed but said searches of other fish wholesalers were possible.

A man who declined to be identified at Port Clinton Fisheries would not comment on the records seizure. Officials from Smith Fisheries and West Water Fish were unavailable for comment.

Last year the Lake Erie Committee of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission set Ohio s quota for yellow perch at 4.2 million fish; Ohio then allowed the state s 18 commercial fishermen to harvest 1.6 million, Mr. Ramsey said.

Sport anglers were allowed a daily limit of 30 perch last year.

The investigation began from tips the agency received from people “who gave us certain information,” Mr. Ramsey said, declining to elaborate on the nature of the alleged offenses.

Charges could be filed by mid-February, Mr. Ramsey said.

“There s a voluminous amount of documents you have to sift through to get to that point,” he said.

The records include paper documents as well as computer files, he said.

Ohio s commercial permits restrict fishing to either Lake Erie s western basin, which extends from Huron to the western shore, or to the central basin, from Huron to the Pennsylvania border. Some commercial fishermen have quotas for both areas, he said.

The international quotas, announced each spring, reflect the number of perch and walleye that can be taken from the lake without depleting the population. For Lake Erie, the perch quota for the United States and Canada is 9.9 million, Mr. Ramsey said.

Ohio s commercial fishing extends from May 1 to Dec. 10.

The walleye quota is set at 3.4 million fish and all intended for sport anglers, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Ohio does not allow commercial walleye fishing.

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