ROCKLAND, Maine — A father and son will pay $25,000 in fines after admitting Thursday that they illegally possessed one of the largest hauls of illegal lobsters in Maine history.
Ricky Curtis, 53, of Union and son Todd Curtis, 29, of South Thomaston both entered guilty pleas Thursday morning in Knox County Superior Court.
The pair both initially had been charged with having more than 400 lobsters that had v-notches on them.
It is illegal to keep v-notched lobsters or those that have been mutilated in a manner that could hide the v-notch. If a female lobster carrying eggs is caught in a trap, lobstermen are required to use a v-notch tool or a sharp knife to remove a very small portion from the center of the tail’s flipper immediately to the right of the center flipper. The lobster is then tossed back into the ocean, with the v-notch remaining evident through the next few molts, so the female can reproduce several more times.
Ricky and Todd Curtis had faced fines of more than $190,000 but the plea agreement reached with the men reduced the number of lobsters they were charged with possessing down to 120 lobsters.
“This was one of the most extreme type of offenses seen,” Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody said at Thursday’s hearing.
He said the fine amount was still a significant one. The Curtises each will have to pay $12,500 in fines.
Defense attorney Philip Cohen noted that the two men also lost their lobster licenses for a year.
Cohen said that while the law makes the captains of the fishing boat responsible, the Curtises were not aware of the v-notched lobsters having been caught. He said it was the responsibility of their sternman to have noticed them and thrown them back into the water.
The sternman was not charged, Baroody said.
The more than 400 illegal lobsters were discovered during a Nov. 21 inspection of Ricky Curtis’ vessel North Star by Maine Marine Patrol Spc. Matthew Talbot and Officer Wesley Dean.
“We consider this a very serious crime for a number of reasons,” said Col. Joseph Fessenden, chief of the Maine Marine Patrol, in a news release issued after the men were charged last year. “The illegal taking of any lobsters negatively affects the resource and is a direct theft from those lobstermen who abide by the laws every day that they fish.”
The practice of notching the tail of a known breeder extends her protection beyond the hatching of her eggs and plays a critical role in the conservation and propagation of Maine’s lobster resource, the department stated.
The lobsters were photographed and released back into the ocean, according to the department.