PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A fisherman was hit with a $9,000 fine for catching striped bass in prohibited waters, according to the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

The DEM said William McLaughlin III was caught dumping striped bass from his boat in an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off Block Island back in June 2020.

Officers with the DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement spotted McLaughlin’s boat in the EEZ, according to the DEM, and watched as he tried to steer clear of them after dumping the fish.

The officers eventually caught up to McLaughlin’s boat, which they boarded. The DEM said McLaughlin had two large striped bass on board.

The DEM defines an EEZ as a designated safe zone for fish. The goal of the EEZ is to maintain sustainable fishery for generations to come by prohibiting fishing in waters where fish are known to repopulate.

Administrative Law Judge Christine Coughlin, who assessed the penalty against McLaughlin, described his actions of dumping the fish and attempting to flee from law enforcement as “aggravating factors.”

“While unlawful possession of one or two fish may not seem to be of consequence to [McLaughlin], when considered in a purely individual context, when it is considered amidst the backdrop of an already struggling fishery and a seemingly rampant disregard for its conservation by ‘prolific’ unlawful fishing activity, such behavior, even individually, is especially grave,” she said.