House Committee OKs Peifer Bill to Get Tough on Fish Poachers
HARRISBURG – Working to cut down on the illegal taking of high-value fish and other aquatic life from area waterways, the House Game and Fisheries Committee today approved legislation authored by Rep. Mike Peifer (R-Monroe/Pike/Wayne) to beef up the state’s poaching laws.

House Bill 2293 would create a new category of offenses within the Fish and Boat Code for serious poaching violations. It also would allow the Fish and Boat Commission to revoke a person’s fishing or boating privileges for up to five years. Current law allows for only two years.

“Weak laws make our waterways extremely vulnerable to poaching,” Peifer said. “Here in the Lake Wallenpaupack and Delaware River areas, we regularly experience substantial, illegal takes of highly sought-after trophy species of fish to sell on the black market.

“These fisheries are vital to our regional economy. It’s high time we put a stop to these crimes,” he added.

Under Pennsylvania’s Fish and Boat Code, poaching is graded as a summary offense, punishable by a fine of just $50. The “serious poaching” violation established by Peifer’s bill would be graded as a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of no less than $500 and no more than $5,000. The bill also creates an offense of “taking or possessing by illegal methods” to address the theft of fishing using devices not normally used for fishing.

To further address the issue of poaching of high-value fish, the bill calls for an additional penalty against anyone found guilty of violating the new offenses. Specifically, the person would be assessed the costs incurred by the commission to replace the threatened or endangered species involved in the violation.

“These penalties are far more severe and should serve as a real deterrent to people who would invade our waters and take these valuable fish and other aquatic life,” Peifer said.

Peifer’s bill also increases the duration for which the Fish and Boat Code could revoke a person’s fishing and boating privileges from two years to five years. The change would serve as a greater deterrent to breaking the state’s fishing and boating laws, and brings the penalty more in line with what is outlined in Pennsylvania’s Game Code.

The bill also: 

        • Increases summary offense fines for the first time in more than a decade. 
        • Increases the discretionary penalty for each fish taken, caught, killed, possessed 
          or sold in violation of the Fish and Boat Code for the first time since 1980. 
        • Allows the commission to start periods of suspension after an individual is 
          released from prison. 
        • Increases the severity of offenses for performing certain acts while a license, 
          permit or privilege is suspended or revoked.

Peifer noted the measure also works in conjunction with recent efforts to add Pennsylvania to the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact and the increase in poaching penalties under the Game Code.

The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

State Representative Michael Peifer
139th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Patricia Hippler
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