Illegal Mill Pond Crabbing, Clamming Continue

Jamie Walsh is chair of Westport’s Shellfish Commission.

He’s concerned about the crabbing and other activities in Sherwood Mill Pond — which, since “06880” first reported on it last month, has become even more intensive. He writes:

On Friday night Barry Lytton, vice chair of the Westport Shellfish Commission and Jonathan Goldstein, owner and operator of Sherwood Island Oysters, discovered 40 to 50 individuals in the Mill Pond both crabbing and poaching large quantities of shellfish.

I also passed by, and was taken aback by the density of individuals with nets and buckets. These are restricted beds, leased for commercial shell fishing only as of right to Sherwood Island Oysters.

Barry was there for several hours. He says, “about 40 were strictly crabbing, but 10 or so were clamming and doing plenty of it. I saw 2 groups with about 200 to 400 clams each. I tried to tell them they could get sick, and called both the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and police, with no response. DEEP dispatch said they’d send somebody, but hadn’t for 2 hours.”

One bucket of clams — among money — at Sherwood Mill Pond Friday night. (Photo/Barry Lytton)

Aside from the light pollution and disruption to the neighbors who live around the pond, shellfish resources are being poached illegally.

It seems difficult for our police to enforce, as this activity occurs at night, they are not always familiar with the regulations, and many times a language barrier exists.

DEEP conservation officers are spread very thin, and do not have the budget for enforcement.

Sherwood Mill Pond crabbers and clammers, July 2023.

We have discussed this issue recently with Colin Kelly, Westport director of conservation. He is looking into enforcement options available to us. We need to protect our resources, and this area is strictly prohibited.

Westport has wonderful open recreational shellfishing beds located in the triangle off Cockenoe. Those areas are not restricted.

Allowing this illegal activity to continue only encourages permissive illegal behavior. This is something our commission plans to address immediately.

Click below for a video of Friday night’s activity. It was filmed by Barry Lytton; the voice is Jonathan Goldstein’s, owner of Sherwood Island Oysters.

(“06880” reports often on the environment — including our beaches and Sherwood Mill Pond. Please click here to help us continue our work. Thank you!)

39 responses to “Illegal Mill Pond Crabbing, Clamming Continue

  1. Since one is allowed to shoot over open water, perhaps a few over the head gun shots would dim some of the lights and thin out some of the illegal clammers…yeah, I know, sounds red necky, but the bastards should obey the l law, and since the police ain’t there…

    • John D McCarthy

      For the record, and as no one else has stepped up to say this…..No, this is not how we should deal with these issues in a civilized society.

  2. What do we expect when we vote for an administraion and congress in Washington DC that allows a totally open border where illegal immigration has allowed over 2.5 MILLION illegal immigrants in the last two years alone not counting the “gotta aways”!
    Geez Westporter’s who can’t see the decaying forest thru the trees! Need to pay attention to the lack of responsible and accountable government we are ALLOWING to decimate our wonderful God given resources. This should be a problem that is being put to the Federal agencies who are SUPPOSED to stop this illegal poaching and destruction! There are laws to stop this damn it, enforce them!

    • And you’re sure, Mr. Broady, that the poachers are illegals; wonder how you know that, other than being prodded by your innate bigotry.

    • How many of these people beat police ? How many urinated inside the capital jan 6 ? How many shouted hand Mike Pence? It’s quite likely they may be ignorant of the law. How many local 06880 people fish illegally? How many 06880 operate boats illegally? How many 06880 people enter the sound with boats illegally? How many 06880 restaurants hire undocumented workers ? Are you aware that Trump hired many undocumented workers speaking of administrations ? How many of our builders in 06880 hire undocumented roofers ? Painters ? Masons ?landscapers? Carpenters ? Without the undocumented workers 06880 business would starve ? My personal opinion is that no one should be so invested into 1 business. It’s a monopoly. Use the law to deal with this problem.

  3. During a storm, underwater oyster reefs or beds – dense colonies of oysters both living and dead – act as a natural breakwater, absorbing wave energy before it hits the shore. No one should harvest them.

  4. Mr. Katz, I base my statement on facts not crazy thoughts like your where you talk about shooting over poachers heads. Talk to people who approach these poachers and hear what the language problems are in just the approaches. I stand pat with my point that illegal immigration growth in this country is a brreding ground for problems like this. What’s wrong with LEGAL IMMIGRATION?

  5. This will not become a thread about illegal immigration. That is not germane to this topic. Any further posts about immigration will be deleted.

  6. Regardless of immigration status, it seems these people are harvesting at a scale beyond personal consumption, thus likely for resale. Not seeing any ice in the pic or video. I’d like to think reputable establishments resist the appeal of cheaper shellfish supplies. I think I’ll pass on that raw platter this summer.

  7. Wondering if this is the first time this has happened? Maybe that couple in this neighborhood who is suing the town over a house being built can sue the clammers?

  8. Are there other companies allowed to harvest shellfish here or is this a monopoly?

  9. It’s become a huge problem over the last 3-4 years. Mill Pond, Compo Beach, Longshore and all points along the river. Licenses/permits are required. The WPD can enforce if they choose to..

    • Hmmm. Something else has become an even bigger problem over the past three years. I wonder if the two are related…

  10. You don’t need a permit to crab, so those 40 people only crabbing were doing it legally. Those who were clamming and oystering would need permits and/or need to do it in a proper designated space. There is a definite uptick in lawlessness and theft around town, well documented by this website. Just ask the owners of Ulta or Awesome Toys, or people who get their cars stolen at home or the train station. Westport is a target rich environment. God help us all if those vapid Westport housewives get a show on tv…

    • What you see as an “uptick in lawlessness” are mainly Westporters who are making easy targets of themselves. Those stolen cars? Virtually all of them are people who leave their key fobs in their cars. As word got around that Westport was full of dopes that did this, we attracted car thieves.

      Ulta? Geez, every Ulta in the country is a target because they don’t have adequate security and their product is easily re-sellable.

      If “we” didn’t do dumb things “we” wouldn’t be targets.

    • Caley Cleveland

      Hmmm I wonder what other events are coinciding with an uptick in crime…

  11. honestly who would ever eat anything straight from this pond.

  12. It seems as if it would be *easier* for the WPD to enforce, happening at night, given that the poachers all have lights. What am I missing? Isn’t any of that overtime that we pay for nighttime policing?

  13. As I have previously stated there are actions that can be taken to mitigate, if not eliminate these problems. I am pleased that Conservation Director, Colin Kelly, is exploring those. I hope First Selectwoman Tooker will speak of this and do her best to provide some enforcement as to night lights issues, possible trespassing, parking restrictions and the taking of shell fish. I am pleased that Mr. Goldstein narrated a video. He and has his co-investors acquired from Jeff Northrup Sr. the legal right to conduct an Oyster business. Mr. Northrup continues to own the small plot of private land at the Tidal Gates on the Mill Pond side.
    Don Bergmann

    • Have you thought about how these people found this location? Apparently many are women? Perhaps Mr Goldstein workers May know ?? Are the workers who are hired to perform the legal harvesting abiding by Ct and USA law ? Are they working legally. ? I hope so I don’t know if any of 06880 citizens work for Mr Goldstein?

  14. Where do they go when they need to relieve themselves?

  15. so if its illegal why are the police / law enforcement not doing anything? is it a jurisdictional issue? town leadership should be coordinating with state agencies if so.

    • “It seems difficult for our police to enforce, as this activity occurs at night, they are not always familiar with the regulations, and many times a language barrier exists.” That just sounds like excuses. How many LEO are on payroll to be working at night? They can familiarize themselves with the regs or seek clarification. And language barrier can happen at at any time anywhere related to a plethora of other possible crimes. If they are clearly breaking laws, bring out the cuffs, detain, and start getting to the bottom.

  16. I was there that night as well and I was most struck by the potential harm to the environment and ecosystem of the area. I worried for those who might eat any contaminated shellfish and become ill. There were children alongside parents in the dark in the water. The whole scene made me feel sad on so many levels. I won’t judge the people who are legally or illegally harvesting shellfish from these areas, I’m certain I’ve not walked even an inch in their shoes.

  17. As the Westport Shellfish Commission we are working actively with the Westport Police Marine Division to help identify and coordinate efforts to curtail these activities. The Marine Division has done an excellent job working to educate other officers and those not familiar with the regulations as well as identifying commercial and “cottage industry” poachers. They have finite resources and are often times limited by existing regulations. Additionally, they are often subject to scheduling issues when low tide coincides with these night time activities. Efforts are being made and enforcement operations are increasing accordingly. The Westport Shellfish Commission, Westport Conservation Department and The Westport Marine Police division in coordination with CT DEEP and The Bureau of Aquaculture are examining a variety of solutions that fall within each respective jurisdiction to stem these illegal activities and help to promote an educational approach when appropriate.

    Jamie Walsh
    Westport Shellfish Commission

    • The WPD Marine Div. used to handle the enforcement regarding clamming at the Cockenoe clam beds. And if we needed to adjust our hours to do it, then so be it. We didn’t have to “examine a variety of solutions with other agencies”. It’s called doing your job. I would also suggest that they (WPD) start checking the Ct. fishing license(s) of the folks fishing from the jetties at Compo and in the river behind Longshore. These folks are poachers and have no regard for shorts or limits. Keep the pressure on for a bit and the whole problem goes away..

    • Low tide is no excuse. Marine officer or not, they need not take their marine boat to the scene. If people are walking there they can walk there too.

  18. Seems like an easy fix.. Enforce the law.. Not really sure why language is part of the discussion

  19. Unless Westport PD deals with it the chances of CT DEEP doing much are pretty low. As someone who has hunted and fished in Westport for over 40 years I have only been checked once while duck hunting by a DEEP officer. DEEP law enforcement is way understaffed. Besides officers assigned to marine fisheries there is only one game warden who covers from Greenwich to Branford.

  20. Andrew Colabella

    I have been tackling this issue since 2017/2018. Started with police ticketing vehicles and then parking rules changed. They’re allowed to pick blue crabs UP to a certain size, but DEEP is suppose to enforce that and they are beyond short staffed and take hours to respond.

    This is an uphill battle and struggle.

    A couple years ago, some people were parked at Allen’s Preserve, all the license plates were misuse, no one had driver licenses and furthermore, they had over $4,000 worth of oysters removed from the aquatic farm out there.

    The water quality is not great because of run off from properties, I95 and Muddy Brook empties into here.

    I have asked and am asking for parking rules to be changed on Hillspoint to give police some sort of enforcement to deter those from entering the pond. This is not just for the residents but for the health and safety of those who do not understand that you cannot and should not eat anything out of the pond.

    DEEP needs to be staffed and make regular patrols of this area at low tide at night.

    I am in contact with a DEEP officer and awaiting further response.

  21. Great memories of catching blue crabs and selling them to Allen’s Clam House. How things have changed.

  22. Richard W. Alley

    To expand a little bit on what Dave Eason wrote – I commanded the Marine Division at the WEstport PD back in the early 1980s and was an ex-officio member of Shellfish harvesting was strictly enforced at that time to the extent that two Special Officers, Byron Latimer and Art Tienken worked full time on clamming enforcement during the summer months. There was a small marine unit that was assigned to them for their work. Clamming was by permit only with a limit of 500 permits with the majority alloted to local folks and a smaller number to non-residents. Those non-residents by the way would line up by the hundreds for hours on the day permits were issued.
    Shellfish that are not properly cleaned or come from unclean waters are extremely dangerous to health.
    Richard Alley
    Retired Inspector
    WEstport Police

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