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Author Topic: Ocean County crabbers accused of stealing from rivalís traps  (Read 16631 times)
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3D
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« on: August 25, 2004, 09:36:50 AM »

Ocean County crabbers accused of stealing from rivalís traps

By MIKE JACCARINO Staff Writer, (609) 978-2010
Press of Atlantic City

Every profession has its cardinal rules that maintain order and continuity.

Journalists cannot make up information, Marines never leave a man behind, and in the world of crabbing, one crabber never steals another crabber's crabs or traps.

Three local commercial crabbers - two lifelong practitioners of the trade - violated that rule, according to the New Jersey State Police.

Edward Lawrence Tonnesen, 68, his son Edward James Tonnesen, 41, and John Ruthven, 27, allegedly stole as many as 150 crab pots from other area commercial crabbers, the State Police said.

The alleged thefts occurred this year, but police - and crabbers - suspect the pattern predates this season.

Every commercial crabber is lawfully allowed 400 traps, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's Fish and Wildlife unit said.

State Police said they saw all three men steal other crabbers' catch, and then return the traps to the water.

They were charged with theft and possession of stolen property in early August, Trooper Valentino Borelli said. The DEP has yet to lodge complaints, but it is expected to, authorities said.

On Monday, Larry Biersack, 60, Michael Ahearn, 42, and Richie Szelc, 40, all commercial crabbers who crab from Forked River to Little Egg Harbor and victims of the alleged thefts, discussed the feelings of betrayal that accompanied the acts.

Once, Biersack and Ahearn shared a solid friendship, but recent events changed that. Each was suspicious that the other stealing traps.

The two mostly crab near the Barnegat Inlet, while others tend traps in waters south of the spot. Neither suspected the Tonnesens.

"We were friends for years," Biersack said. "You fish next to each other and, right or wrong, he's the first one you look at."

Biersack, a Forked River resident who has commercially crabbed for 25 years, shook his head and looked at Ahearn.

Biersack, Ahearn and Szelc were at the state Fish and Wildlife station in Port Republic on Monday to identify missing equipment police recovered from the Tonnesens.

Afterward, Biersack and Ahearn spoke for the first time in two years.

Tim O'Mara, owner of Captain Mike's Marina off Great Bay Boulevard in Little Egg Harbor, a crabbing hot spot, called staying away from other people's crab traps, "the cardinal rule."

As an avid crabber and a merchant who caters to recreational crabbers, O'Mara said he both professes the rule to others and heeds it himself.

"You know, it's funny," he said. "You see the rental boat guys pick up (traps) out of curiosity ... but you just don't do that. That could be someone's livelihood. That could be someone's dinner."

Crabbers leave large traps, often called crab pots, out overnight. They typically check the traps in the pre-dawn hours.

Edward James Tonnesen and John Ruthven, his mate, left at 1 a.m., Borrelli said. The elder Tonnesen left at 4 a.m. to check their traps.

For about a month, the State Police Marine Division had the Tonnesens under surveillance. Borrelli said he woke daily at 2 a.m. and parked at the end of the numerous roads that jut into the Barnegat, Manahawkin and Little Egg Harbor bays from the mainland.

One morning, just after dawn, Borrelli said he saw the elder Tonnesen take crabs from another crabber's pot. Days later, Borelli said he observed the younger Tonnesen do the same, and take the trap.

After a check, traps are left unwatched until the next morning, making trust essential to the trade, crabbers said.

Ahearn called the sanctity of another crabber's traps, the "No. 1 rule."

Theft of traps "is always in the back of your mind ... when you start out," Biersack said. "You worry a lot."

Ahearn admitted that he was, "obsessed years ago," about the theft of his traps. Early on, the Waretown resident said he "used to watch (his traps) a lot" to prevent theft, after making his daily rounds of the traps.

Stiffer penalties and experience have lessened his fears, Ahearn said, but he still thinks about it. The typical commercial crab trap sells for about $30.

The sense of betrayal is keenly felt in Szelc's statement for The Press.

He said he once shared a strong friendship with the younger Tonnesen, who served in his wedding.

"There was a time when I considered him one of my closest friends, but now I realize that was just a ploy to steal my living away from me," Szelc wrote in his statement.

It's not the first time authorities have cited the elder Tonnesen. Since 1997, he has paid $4,240 in fines for five violations, including taking undersized crabs, using illegal traps, and, twice in 1997, tampering with another's gear, Fish and Wildlife officials reported.

Details of the 1997 incidents were not available, and the elder Tonnesen, reached at what police described as his base, Tony's Bait and Tackle Shop in Manahawkin, declined to comment. Attempts to reach the younger Tonnesen were unsuccessful.

The accused have not been arraigned, State Police said. They have resumed crabbing, Borelli added.

In his statement, Szelc wrote, "This was an act of bone deep greed and no punishment could be too severe. I hope Eddie and (Ruthven) are thrown in jail where they belong."

Hard words, he added, for crabbers who allegedly broke the trade's cardinal rule.

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This is Comm# 403 I have been complaining about...It's nice to see that when enough people file complaints the State actually takes action! I feel good b/c I didn't retailate and just informed the SP...

I hope people don't use their business there is no excuse to kill undersize crabs....

I am now vindicated!!!!!!
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ol crabber
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« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2004, 10:23:40 AM »

Good Report 3D, too bad they are letting those thiefs continue crabbing. They should be banned from all fishing and hunting until they are arraigned and found guilty. I am familiar with the guy named Ahearn his family owned the local seafood market in town. I'm sure that this goes on all the time, but the other thiefs unfortunatly don't get caught & prosecuted.
                                             ol crabber
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3D
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« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2004, 10:38:16 AM »

OC,

I agree I'm for a man earning a living, but these guys are out of control w/ harmful threats & now poaching...

The funny thing is they are the ones stealing & they claim its the RECs...I wish my dock wasn't so close to theirs.
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Fruitland Crabber
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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2004, 01:05:35 PM »

its people like that , that should be shot !
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DANGERCRAB
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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2004, 01:33:26 PM »

Nahhhh

A well planned hit to their dock, boats and vechicles would be good
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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2004, 01:56:28 PM »

Should use those guys for crab bait.
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« Reply #6 on: August 25, 2004, 06:58:11 PM »

Should use those guys for crab bait.
Sorry Tatoo,you're wrong...even crabs wouldn't eat them scumbags Angry Wink
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will someone tell me what kind of world it is we live in, when a man dressed up as a bat,steals all my press? ...The Joker
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« Reply #7 on: August 25, 2004, 09:38:10 PM »

Get a rope...

Crabpop
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« Reply #8 on: August 25, 2004, 10:31:07 PM »

Quote:  "Sorry Tatoo,you're wrong...even crabs wouldn't eat them scumbags "  HA!!

I am both amazed and concerned that these jerks are allowed to still be out on the water!  I am very familiar with the area you are speaking of...I used to live near Little Egg Harbour and I used to be a meter reader for the gas company when I lived in New Jersey.  

I hope that when they are arraigned, they ban them from the waters!!

Janice
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« Reply #9 on: August 25, 2004, 11:08:15 PM »

right    MrsC...can't beleive they're allowed back in the water..... Angry..almost like watchin someone shoot someone else,and then giving him the gun back.....makes no sense Angry
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will someone tell me what kind of world it is we live in, when a man dressed up as a bat,steals all my press? ...The Joker

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jr
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« Reply #10 on: August 25, 2004, 11:31:01 PM »

crab bait!! iam thinking chum Angry I always like to catch rockfish :-\i cant understand wy people want to be like that. better yet shark bait!!!!!!
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« Reply #11 on: August 25, 2004, 11:39:10 PM »

 I just might still have a couple of shovels around here somewhere!.........  
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Anytime, Anyplace JO !
jr
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« Reply #12 on: August 25, 2004, 11:58:42 PM »

shovels,backhoe its all the same thing wiseguy LOL the deeper the better Cheesy
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« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2004, 12:25:19 AM »

ah yes,  but true justice would be weighing them down in the marsh at low tide and let the crabs pick away at them as the tide comes in. that saves the taxpayers from paying for those 3 meals a day and a roof over their heads, and lets the crabs taste the "other" white meat!.....   Smiley
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Anytime, Anyplace JO !
jr
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« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2004, 12:42:18 AM »

LOL Smiley jc i couldnt have said it better my self!!!!!!!!!!!!! Smiley Smiley Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: August 26, 2004, 08:30:05 AM »

used to be a meter reader for the gas company when I lived in New Jersey.  
Janice,  Got any old friends back there that could maybe mis read their meter?  Be funny for them to get a $10,000 gas bill  Wink Grin Grin
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« Reply #16 on: August 26, 2004, 09:47:45 AM »

The more I read into this the more I am shocked that they are still on the water myself...They have a history of theft & poaching...

NJ needs to start putting their pics on tv as poachers...

Anyway they are the owners of Tony's bait & Tackle in Manahawkin, NJ & I hope people turn the other way and spend their money somewhere else.
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« Reply #17 on: August 26, 2004, 11:10:26 AM »

Would be a shame if there boat got a hole in it  Wink
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DANGERCRAB
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« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2004, 12:18:38 PM »

A hole in their boat, blown up dock pilings, burned all of their fishing equipment   Cool lets see should that be arranged  hmmm
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« Reply #19 on: August 26, 2004, 12:21:20 PM »

C'mon guys, let's not stoop to their level!  Roll Eyes
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