State Troopers cracking down on illegal crabbing on the Oregon c - KPTV - FOX 12

State Troopers cracking down on illegal crabbing on the Oregon coast

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A specialized team of Oregon State Troopers are working to catch commercial fisherman who break state rules. A job they do to protect the resource from being depleted every season.

When you make a living off the sea, having rules imposed on you can sometimes make that tough. OSP Senior Trooper Heather Van Meter understands that. She works through that friction with fisherman every day.

"If I can make them laugh and do what they're supposed to do and they still like me in the end, then I've won there, so I'll try," said Van Meter.

FOX 12 was there as she performed routine checks on fisheries in Newport.

Right now, it's crabbing season, which means Van Meter is checking to make sure all off-loaded crab is the legal size. Anything less than six and a quarter inch is considered too small.

"They want to make sure they have new crab to replace the old crab. They have to put a line in the sand somewhere on what to keep, or not to keep," said Van Meter.

If she finds a couple of crabs that are too small, she'll have to measure out every single crab in an off-loaded container to make sure no other illegal sized crab sneaks through. 

"I have probably measured about 40,000 pounds of crab this year with the help of the Coast Guard," said Van Meter. 

She's also looking for female crab because they're considered illegal to sell too.

"Females have all the eggs, so it's important to make sure they stay out there in the ocean and continue to produce more crab," she added.

So far on her check, everything seemed to be just fine.

"I can't even find one to give you as an example, so that's good," said Van Meter. "I usually tell these guys if I can find one they owe me coffee, and if I can't find any, than the other way around. So, I owe a lot of cups of coffee."

Van Meter is the only woman trooper on the specialized marine fisheries team that travels from Astoria to Brookings to make sure all fisherman follow state rules.

OSP tells FOX 12 in 2016 that team of seven people did checks on some 1,516 commercial crabbers. They found 164 that weren't in compliance with state laws, some were issued warnings and others citations.

"I work and live in the same communities as these guys and gals so it's hard to give them citations. Sometimes, it's actually the thing I hate the most, but it's my job to do it," said Van Meter.

A job to protect a resource and a livelihood, one she passionately defends.

"It's important to understand the whole holistic circle of life that they have. They're catching and we're making sure that they're doing it right and we respect the job that both sides do," said Van Meter.

The OSP marine fisheries team also does compliance checks on salmon, halibut and other commercial industries as well. It just all depends on the time of year and what's biting.

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