A Bridgeton man has been charged with illegally netting striped bass that he apparently planned to sell in his Commerce Street restaurant.
Jian X. Shao, 47, faces charges of possessing 85 undersized striped bass and catching 77 more than the daily limit. The state Division of Fish and Wildlife, which is prosecuting the case, said Shao faces $19,000 in fines.
The case began when the division received a tip at 1:45 a.m. July 22 that five people were using a cast net to catch striped bass from the Fortescue Creek Bridge in Downe Township. It is illegal to net striped bass in New Jersey. They can be landed only by hook-and-line or spear fishing.
Armed with a vehicle description, marine conservation officers Thomas Swift and Jeremy Trembley went to the only road leaving Fortescue and at 2:15 a.m. pulled over the suspect vehicle.
According to authorities, a search uncovered a cast net and 11 striped bass under the legal size limit of 28 inches. Authorities said Shao claimed he caught all the fish so the others were not charged. That also left Shao facing charges of catching nine fish over the limit since people are allowed only two striped bass per day.
Authorities said those charges will be heard Aug. 15 in Fairfield Township Municipal Court, which handles court duties for Downe Township.
The officers also found that Shao owns the Fuleen Meng Restaurant on East Commerce Street, and at 11 a.m. July 22 conducted an inspection at the establishment, discovering 74 undersized stripers in a freezer. Shao was charged with catching 74 undersized fish and 68 fish over the daily limit. Shao also was charged with failure to provide accurate records of fisheries resources and for possession of striped bass for the purpose of sale. New Jersey banned the sale of wild striped bass in 1991.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a compact of East Coast states that regulates migratory fish, gives out allocations for striped bass to the states. New Jersey, unlike other East Coast states, gives its commercial allocation to recreational anglers, 321,750 pounds a year, by allowing anglers to get a bonus tag to catch a third fish per day. Without a commercial catch, striped bass cannot be sold at restaurants unless it is a farm-raised hybrid variety.
The state’s case developed at the Fuleen Meng Restaurant is set to go to Bridgeton Municipal Court on Aug. 23.
Shao could not be reached for comment Friday.
Contact Richard Degener: