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Oct 6, 2009 6:39 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Judge issues injunction, blocks fishing license enforcement

Oct 6, 2009 6:39 PM

A Suffolk County Court judge has blocked the state Department of Environmental Conservation from enforcing a new saltwater fishing license law in three East End towns.

Hours before it was set to take effect, Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice William Rebolini issued a temporary restraining order on Wednesday afternoon, September 30, barring the state from enforcing the controversial new license requirement in Southampton Town, East Hampton Town and on Shelter Island.

The restraining order is in effect until Tuesday, October 13, when attorneys representing the three towns are to appear before a different judge to argue the merits of the case, according to Judge Rebolini’s ruling. The Town of Southold is expected to have joined the injunction request by that time as well.

The injunction, while in effect, applies only to areas where the Town Trustees of the three towns have jurisdiction. It does not impact the license requirement in any way beyond the East End and would not apply to fishermen on boats outside of town waters or in Montauk, because the East Hampton Town Trustees’ authority does not include the Montauk area.

While the ocean is state waters, the restraining order does free surfcasters from having to carry the license when fishing between the east side of Moriches Inlet, where the Southampton Town Trustees’ jurisdiction begins, and the western boundary of Hither Hills State Park in Montauk, where the East Hampton Town Trustees jurisdiction ends, because enforcement of the license is barred within the Trustees’ jurisdiction.

“For all intents and purposes, the licensing law in our three towns doesn’t exist until October 13,” Assistant Southampton Town Attorney Joseph Lombardo said on Thursday, 
October 1. “If the Trustees have jurisdiction over the water, that’s where the injunction is good for, and there is to be no enforcement in the three towns.”

Wednesday’s court order does not address the merits of the Trustees’ case, it simply orders that the license not be enforced until the arguments can be reviewed more thoroughly. But the Trustees were happy to see that their case at least seemed to hold enough water to warrant the judge ordering things be held in check until it can be heard.

“They’re thinking about it. It gave them pause to at least give it consideration, so that’s important to us,” Southampton Town Trustee Jon Semlear said. “The judge, at least, thought it had enough merit to look into it further.”

Justice Patrick Sweeney, who will review the Trustees’ arguments against the license being enforced on the East End in the long run, will have the option of extending the injunction against enforcing the license while he reviews the merits of the case.

The new saltwater license has drawn criticism from across the state and from public officials on Long Island, where the vast majority of the state’s saltwater fishermen reside. It is the first time a license has ever been required for fishing in saltwaters in New York State. The license will cost state residents $10 annually or $150 for a lifetime pass.

At a press conference outside the Suffolk County Supreme Court building in Riverhead on Wednesday, while the attorneys for the Trustees were filing the restraining order request, members of the East Hampton and Southampton town boards of trustees and other local elected officials blasted the license regulations.

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said that while the state has imposed the new license fee on its residents, no new programs to benefit fishermen or fisheries have been created. The money, he said, is just being used to pay for existing programs and the salaries of employees that have been cut from the state budget during the recent fiscal crisis.

“It’s just one more thing they’re charging us for, and where is it going to stop?” East Hampton Town Trustee Stephanie Talmage said. “We have to take a stand somewhere. People say it’s only $10, but it will just get more and more.”

The Trustees in the three towns are challenging the state’s right to impose such a fee on their residents since their centuries-old boards still derive their authority from 17th century colonial writs that guaranteed that the town’s residents could “fish and fowl” on 
town waters for free and without hindrance from any outside agencies. When the State of New York was formed, the colonial-era laws were ratified within the state constitution, the Trustees argue, and mean the Trustees authority should still supersede state law.

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Memorabilia on auction. One NYS saltwater fishing license. Never used-mint condition. No reserve.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Oct 1, 09 3:36 PM
Now how is this gonna work ...? You will need the license for the beach from Hither Hills to the Point, in all of the ocean, the Peconics and Gardiner's Bay, and Long Island Sound. But if you're on land in those towns you won't be able to get one. In Southold and on Shelter Island you can fish in the creeks for free. In East Hampton it will be a free-for-all in Montauk and Three Mile Harbors and Georgica Pond. And in Southampton you get the creeks, Mecox, Shinnecock and the east half of Moriches ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 1, 09 5:17 PM
WOW..! All i can say is...Thank GOD for these east end officials who have the nerve to opposse the D.E.C. when it comes to this issue! The D.E.C. and the uninformed " fat cats" of this state has pushed myself and many other's out of business with thier ridiculus regulations and restrictions of our public water ways. The D.E.C. website has posted that the new S.F.L ( saltwater fishing licence) fees will insure our "privlage" of fishing....WHAT??? It's our RIGHT! Being born and raised here on ...more
By fishhunter718 (6), hampton bays on Oct 2, 09 6:41 AM
2 members liked this comment
Cant thank our trustees enough for protecting our rights. ALbany has always taken and we do not get the benefits. They have no right to govern our way of life since the boat landed at Conscience Point.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Oct 2, 09 7:01 AM
2 members liked this comment
Right on fishhunter and north sea citizen, the state is in the process of changing fishing as a given right, to a privlilege , so they can collect 10 more dollars from each sucker and write more paper. Let's put a stop to this insanity. Stand up America
By gofish (1), brookhaven on Oct 2, 09 8:45 AM
Nassau Friend tells Southampton Resident he needs permit...

Southampton Town tells DEC to stop taking over the East End...

Southampton Residents win 1 against the DEC...Now, for all the other battles...
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 9:26 AM
This is such a sleezy way for the DEC to raise money. The fish in the oceans and bays should be free to all. Nobody owns them. What's next? A fee to put a boat in the water?
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Oct 2, 09 10:55 AM
This is not a brain storm of the DEC. It is Gov Patterson and the Democratic Seante and Democratic Assembly.
Kudo to the trustees for standing up and doing the right thing here.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 12:28 PM
A fee to put a boat in the water probably is next. Or maybe a bait and lure tax. Lets not give them any more ideas.
By Ebby (75), Sag Harbor on Oct 2, 09 12:39 PM
That's a start. Now what about the hunters and baymen? They all fall under that patent.. moreso than the anglers do.

Also.. what are the chances our beaches will be completely inundated with anglers from all over the island who want to come out and fish for free? Many of the sporties from upisland come out here to fish as it is... this will probably cause even more crowding.
By RubyBaby (28), East Hampton on Oct 2, 09 3:48 PM
Ruby, they are coming here already, nothing is going to stop that and they are an integral part of our economy. No one however from "up west" is going to travel out here to avoid paying a $10 fishing license fee. If they live up west they wil still need a license even if they are fishing in our waters.
By Terry (380), Southampton on Oct 2, 09 3:54 PM
I think ruby needs to do more research! The people who do hunt are already paying one way or another. The baymen have payed severely already! There arent too many of them left! I should know, I was one of them pushed out by the government ! As for the beaches being clogged with "upisland sporties" ...the local beaches are closed to these fishermen unless they pay a hefty fee. Talking from my experience,most fishermen are good ,clean ,respectful people! You do get a few loser's here and there as ...more
By fishhunter718 (6), hampton bays on Oct 2, 09 6:40 PM
You misunderstood my post. By "What about the hunters and baymen" - I meant why do they have to pay up the wazoo to hunt/fish when the patent is supposed to protect them as well. I'm an advocated for hunting and commercial fishermen; my husband is a retired bayman and I am 8th generation. As for the sporties.. I would not be surprised at all if many more are willing to come out here, and officials are going to have a very hard time enforcing this by driving all over to check and see who is a ...more
By RubyBaby (28), East Hampton on Oct 2, 09 8:40 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By fishhunter718 (6), hampton bays on Oct 2, 09 10:40 PM
SORRY RUBYBABY......I guess i did misunderstand your post. GOOD LUCK to you and your husband and i agree w/ you 100% The townies do a great job checking who belongs here and who does'nt ! It however falls on the D.E.C. to determine who's poaching and who is not. ...P.S. dont be so hard on the "sporties'...they WE.. bring alot of monies into this area and as i posted before, we are all very good people for the most part!
By fishhunter718 (6), hampton bays on Oct 2, 09 10:40 PM
As the legal precedents stand right now after the decision in the Brookhaven Baymen case -- the East End Towns have no jurisdiction to limit, manage or prohibit in any way the access to taking of fish for sport or profit in their waters. Southampton admitted in Court documents and Suffolk Supreme Court Justice Mayer ruled that their only interest under the Dongan Patent is in the use of implements that "disturb" the bay bottom. The East End Town's claims in the case against the State requirement ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 3, 09 2:02 PM
Correction -- "res judicata" is "claim preclusion", for you legal purists ...;-p
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 3, 09 2:11 PM
By MARTY (1), ISLIP on Oct 4, 09 7:31 PM
What about Smithtown? The “Nissequoge Village police” & the areas between the river & long beach should not fall in the jurisdiction of the D.E.C either. It too has it’s own police force. I am an avid fisherman & hunter & believe in conservation & all the laws that govern it. But this year they took it a little too far. My annual super sportsman’s license went up $30.00 in one year from $68 to $98. They’ve complained about declining license sales the past few years & then they hit us with this. ...more
By fishhunt (1), Smithtown on Oct 5, 09 9:50 PM
You people not from the East End have to realize that those Towns are not on your side. There is this illegal scheme in place whereby they declare their underwater lands to be quasi-private property. They already have laws that keep out non-resident NYSDEC licensed hunters, fresh water recreational fishermen and commercial baymen. Where they are going with this is to do the same thing in the bays and creeks. For some strange reason that no one I have talked to can explain to me the DEC has been ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 6, 09 11:17 AM
snarko77 : The Trustees are still going to win in court. Keep dreaming guy ! LOL ! : - P
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Oct 6, 09 4:44 PM
We must all continue to vote for bigger government, more government employees, many new government desks and exciting ideas for extorting and spending our money. Federal government asked for a list, a registry of known salt water anglers , no license demands ... this is all NY State, " Tax Long Island" , the money pit. Just Believe!
By wendel (7), Miller Place on Oct 7, 09 8:27 AM
INS -- The first part of you comment is completely ludicrous. What survives from Colonial times has to do with geographic jurisdiction -- not jurisprudence. All the laws of the British Colonial government have been repudiated and have been replaced by the American system.

As to the second part of your comment -- the fact that the Trustees don't own the underwater lands but "only manage them in trust" demonstrates what is different about the American system. These are public lands, not private, ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 7, 09 10:00 AM
"Right to govern" does not mean "how to govern." It is exactly as I said -- it determines "geographic jurisdiction -- not jurisprudence."

I have done plenty of research. The scheme that is in place on the East End was called in court documents by the Pataki administration "an archaic legal fiction" and that is exactly what it is. "These are public lands but for the people of Southampton Township not the public at large." ...? That's what the Public Trust Doctrine says when you read it ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 8, 09 3:51 AM
What you people have been doing gives more rights to an illegal alien who rents half a room in the Southampton portion of Eastport than it does a multi-generational East End commercial bayman whose residence is just over the line into Brookhaven.

What would your alter ego Sen. Eugene McCarthy call that scheme ...?
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 8, 09 10:35 AM
So, no non resident can touch the bottom or just commercial fishermen . If it's the latter than you are still excluding non resident commercial fishermen using an illegal "backdoor" scheme.

Just try to pull that on non resident sportfisherment and see what happens ....
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 8, 09 7:15 PM
I know you've already done that with freshwater sporties -- for those who don't know, your NYS freshwater fishing license counts for naught in Southampton -- you have to pay a resident guide to fish in the lakes or hunt on the bays if you don't live there. Doesn't matter if you're a direct descendant of Abraham Lincoln and a wounded war veteran. But someone who snuck into the Country can fisih and hunt wherever he wants to -- as long as his address is over the border into Southampton. If they win ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 9, 09 10:33 AM
The action is to establish the same rights you now claim and exercise under the Colonial Patents to exclude New York State licensed outsiders from recreational and commercial hunting and fishing. Your Trustees and Bay Constables enjoy financial benefits from this Unconstitutional scheme of exclusion by harvesting the bays and offering their highly paid services as hunting and fishing "guides". Why wouldn't you include saltwater sportfishing in this scam if you were to gain the right to in court? ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 10, 09 7:57 AM
It sounds so old and unique -- "Colonial Patents". But these are not magic words that allow you to rule in some monarchical exclusionary fashion. The fact is that all Township jurisdictions in New York State were established by these documents.

You base your claim in that you still have "Trustees" instead of just Town Boards. What the courts have allowed for is the Trustees acting as quasi-governmental bodies. But no decision could ever or would ever legally allow you to trample on the ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 10, 09 11:51 AM
Ok - so just add the term "pre-Revolutionary War" to the quoted statement.

The action -- if successful -- would void the rights of NYS licensed non-resident recreational fishermen in Town waters, would it not? Right now those people see you as heroes standing up against big tax/big government for all State spotfishermen. But that's not what it is at all, is it ...?
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 10, 09 2:45 PM
sportfishermen (oopsy)
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 10, 09 2:46 PM
"Southampton Town Code sec. 111.37 as enforcement of compliance with Trustee Rules and Regulations of Southampton, Art. V, sec. 1C states: ' No fish pound, fyke, trap, pot or other anchored device for the taking or keeping of shellfish, fish, eels, crabs, lobsters or conchs, shall be placed in Town waters unless duly authorized by written permission of the Trustees. Permission shall be granted only to Residents and Freeholders.*

"Patently" illegal and Unconstitutional and shall soon be ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 10, 09 8:40 PM
And -- Art. III sec. A340-17: "Only residents and student residents may take fish from bodies of fresh water in the Town of Southampton."*

Now why would you limit freshwater fishing and not saltwater, when your Trustees and Bay Constables make so much money as fishing and hunting guides (the only way non residents can fish in freshwater and hunt in your town is to procure the services of a resident guide-- even if they possess a valid New York State license.)

*From the Trustee's ...more
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 10, 09 9:14 PM
I could fish -- and shellfish -- on his boat in Southampton without moving in with him, according to your laws. How do you say Dongan Patent in Spanish ...?
By snarko77 (49), Brookhaven on Oct 13, 09 10:26 AM