Six people from New Jersey and Maryland were arrested this week after a federal grand jury handed down a 15-count indictment, charging them with trafficking in illegally harvested oysters, obstructing justice and a host of other related offenses. According to a statement prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice, five oyster fishing boats believed to be involved in the alleged crimes were also seized. Fishermen from Reeves Brothers in Port Norris, NJ and employees from Harbor House Seafood in Seaford, DE are accused of illegally harvesting more than $600,000 worth of oysters between 2004 and 2007.
Federal prosecutors allege that fishermen from Reeves Brothers repeatedly over-harvested oysters from beds in the Delaware Bay, and then dummied up reports and records required by state and federal laws to cover up their misdeeds. The indictments also accuse the Reeves Brothers of working with Harbor House Seafood to create and maintain bogus records to hide the amount of oysters they had harvested. Harbor House is also accused of knowingly turning over the falsified records to investigators. In addition to the five fishing boats seized, five others are subject to restraining orders that prohibits their use until there’s an outcome to the trial.
Those charged are believed to have exceeded the legal quota of oysters hauls by as much as 90 percent. Perhaps this explains why oysters as we know them are on the brink of extinction.