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Tourists cited for overfishing on New Bedford boat

Police discover a group of fishers reeled in fish hundreds of pounds over the legal limit.
Police discover a group of fishers reeled in fish hundreds of pounds over the legal limit.(Massachusetts Environmental Police)

More than 20 tourists aboard a boat in New Bedford were cited for overfishing Wednesday afternoon, after they reeled in a catch that weighed hundreds of pounds over the legal limit, officials said.

The boat — a for-hire vessel — had just returned from Buzzards Bay around 3 p.m. when officers discovered the serious overfishing, Massachusetts Environmental Police said in a statement. There were 35 people total onboard, and nearly all were cited, Moran said.

“It’s very significant considering it was only 35 people fishing,” environmental police spokesman Patrick Moran said. “A lot of these head boats will go out with 100 people.”

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The people on board, who were from South Carolina and New York, had caught black sea bass that weighed 560 pounds over the legal limit — including 33 fish that didn’t meet the 15-inch-long minimum requirement — and sculp that was 90 pounds over the legal limit, police said. Officers also found one undersized striped bass and one undersized tautog on the boat.

The South Carolina passengers were part of a church group traveling with their pastor, Moran said.

“The pastor told us that since only a few of the congregation could come up to fish, they wanted to catch as much fish as they could to take back for the church fish fry,” he said. “He then asked us to pray for him.”

Officers issued multiple citations in response to the violations, and the illegal fish was donated to the New Bedford Salvation Army, police said.

“This is early in the season,” Moran said. “This just started, and it’s not going to be good for the fishery if this is how it goes all summer.”

Elise Takahama can be reached at elise.takahama@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.