Lt. John Wimsatt, District Six Chief  (603) 271-3361
Maj. Timothy Acerno, Acting Chief of Law Enforcement (603) 271-3128
Rockingham County Attorney's Office (603) 642-4249
May 21, 2008

Lobsterman Convicted of Trap Thefts

BRENTWOOD, NH -- Aaron J. Marconi, 39, of Portsmouth was convicted in Rockingham County Superior Court on three Class A Misdemeanor complaints of possessing lobster traps belonging to other lobstermen in the Portsmouth area.

The charges against Marconi stem from a yearlong investigation into numerous allegations from area lobstermen that he was illegally possessing traps that belonged to them and fishing the traps as his own to take lobster.

After extensive investigation by Conservation Officers from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, led by CO William Boudreau, and the execution of a search warrant in state territorial waters of the Atlantic Ocean, substantial evidence and information was gathered to support the allegations and subsequent charges.

Marconi was sentenced to the Rockingham House of Corrections for a period of six months.  This sentence was suspended on condition of good behavior for a period of one year.  He was fined $6000.00 and his commercial fishing license, which allowed him to catch and sell lobsters from New Hampshire's ocean waters, was revoked and suspended for the next three years.  If Marconi is of good behavior and complies with all terms and conditions of the sentence, he may apply to the court to have the final year of the suspension deferred on condition of absolutely no marine fisheries infractions.  If the deferral is granted, any such violation will result in not only potential new charges but imposition of the remaining one full year of suspension of his license.

Conservation Officers are making arrangements to return numerous seized lobster traps to their rightful owners as the state's investigation comes to a close.

Assistant County Attorney Scott Jordan of the Rockingham County Attorney's Office prosecuted for the State.  NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement, the United States Coast Guard, Station Portsmouth and the New Hampshire Marine Patrol provided important assistance in the investigation.

"We wish to express our sincere appreciation to the staff of the Rockingham County Attorney's Office for their prosecutorial support during this lengthy investigation," said Lt. John Wimsatt, who supervises the seacoast district. Wimsatt also noted the importance of federal funding provided through a program known as the Joint Enforcement Agreement (JEA) administered by the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement. "This program provides our state with vessels, vehicles, safety gear, specialty equipment and funding that has enabled us to conduct investigations of this magnitude," he said.  "The JEA allows us to enforce marine regulations for species such as cod, haddock, lobster and striped bass in both state and federal waters thus increasing the effectiveness of our enforcement efforts."  

Conservation Officers receive numerous complaints from area lobstermen concerning the tampering, theft, and unlawful use of lobster traps up and down New Hampshire's coast. State law prohibits anyone, other than the owner or a Conservation Officer, from lifting, molesting, possessing, transferring, or carrying away lobster traps, buoys and related gear.

Officials from New Hampshire Fish and Game and the Rockingham County Attorney's office stress that tampering with lobstermen's fishing gear is a serious criminal offense and will not be tolerated..  Penalties are substantial and include suspension of lobster fishing privileges, hefty fines, and possible jail time. Commercial lobstermen that experience damaged or stolen traps, cut buoy lines, and trawls that have been tampered with, expend unnecessary time and money to repair or replace valuable gear. Recreational lobstermen, licensed to fish up to five lobster traps, are also experiencing similar problems.

Anyone having information concerning the theft or vandalism of lobster gear is encouraged to contact the Operation Game Thief  24-hour hotline at 1-800-344-4262. You may remain completely anonymous and cash rewards are offered for information leading to the arrest of violators.  New for 2008, you can now report violations online -- click here for info or to make a report.  For federal violations, call the NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964

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