RYE — A Bedford lobsterman is facing more than 130 charges and violations, including charges related to his alleged possession of stolen lobster gear.
Kyle Basoukas, 21, was arrested on Nov. 11, following a three-month investigation by New Hampshire Fish and Game.
Fish and game officers first became suspicious of Basoukas in August, Lt. Michael Eastman said. Conservation officers are out on the water daily checking on fishermen, and he said Basoukas’s answers to questions did not match up with the gear he appeared to have.
According to Fish and Game, Basoukas is a licensed part-time commercial lobsterman who was operating between Odiorne State Park in Rye and an area south of Rye Harbor.
Following the granting and execution of a search warrant, Fish and Game officers seized 81 lobster traps, including 49 that officers say were determined to be stolen property. Some of the stolen traps had belonged to local lobsterman Tony Rahn who died in a scuba diving accident in July, officers said.
When Rahn’s family went to retrieve his traps, they noticed many were missing and notified Fish and Game, Eastman said.
Basoukas has been charged with a class A felony of receiving stolen property and misdemeanor charges of molesting lobster gear and taking lobsters without lobster trap tags. He is also facing 130 other lobster violations, including use of illegal escape panels, which prevent lobsters from escaping if a trap is lost, no weak links, a required gear adaptation that prevents whale and porpoise entanglement, and having only one buoy on trawls containing five or more traps.
Basoukas was released on personal recognizance bail and is scheduled to appear in Portsmouth Circuit Court on Jan. 13, for arraignment.
Eastman said the most challenging and time-consuming part of the investigation was tracking down the owners of the 49 stolen traps.
“Some you can look at and say it belongs to this person and have them come down and identify it, but … some construct their own traps, some buy their own traps and modify them, so it really comes down to saying ‘hey, we have all these traps, if you are missing traps come down and look at them,’” Eastman said.
He said it took many weeks to finally identify the 10 or so owners of all the stolen traps.
The traps are still being considered evidence until the case is resolved. Once it is resolved, the traps will be returned to their rightful owners.
Eastman said it is not uncommon to receive complaints about potentially stolen or lost gear.
“But to find somebody who put effort into stealing people’s traps, cutting buoys off — it’s something we get complaints about and hear about but it is really difficult to put a case together,” Eastman said.
Eastman said it is important for fishermen to make sure their gear is properly marked, as prescribed under law, with their name and address, and to ensure that trap tags are attached. Fishermen can go the extra mile by etching a name or marker into traps to also help with identification.
Eastman said the case also speaks to the conservation of lobstering, as well as protecting the livelihood of legitimate fishermen.
“Because not only do we have a receiving stolen property case, but we have a person fishing without weak links … with illegal escape vents … and somebody who fishes without those is certainly not abiding to the conservation side of lobstering,” Eastman said.