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PORTSMOUTH-We often hear about the Coast Guard on drug patrol seizing millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs before they get to the United States.

There's another important mission. much closer to home, the service has - looking for fishermen illegally taking striped bass from federal waters.

The Cutter Shearwater recently went on patrol for Operation Striper Swiper. Striped bass are protected three nautical miles from shore to 200 nautical miles because overfishing, pollution and loss of habitat.

Master Chief Petty Officer Stephen Atchley, Shearwater's officer in charge, explains the timing of the patrols.

'It's at the point where [the striped bass] move off shore to do their breeding, that is what we are trying to protect. To give them a chance to survive,' he says.

Shearwater boarding teams boarded small boats at random, doing safety inspections and checking for signs of illegally-caught striped bass.

The Coast Guard says fishermen who know they're doing something wrong will throw the fish back when they see a boat closing in.

Officials stress that even catching and releasing bass during breeding season is illegal.

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