Candy Thompson is after the rockfish poachers again. Yesterday the Sports Fish Advisory Commission (SFAC) voted to recommend that the February gill net season in Maryland be closed. This should be no great surprise as the SFAC represents recreational fishermen's interest to the Director of Fisheries at Maryland DNR. I would be utterly shocked if they said otherwise. Any opportunity to vote on shutting any commercial striped bass season for any reason would garner a significant number of votes on this group. I would support it. I would utterly happy to have rockfish get full gamefish status and not be susceptible to any commercial fishing.
However, tomorrow night the Tidal Fish Advisory Commission, the commercial counterpoint of SFAC, meets, and will almost certainly vote the other way. And, they may have the numbers on their side:
Doing the math, the February season is about 200,000 pounds under quota, enough to allow about two days of fishing. Those 48 hours or so are enough to help honest watermen pay their bills and put food on the table, argues Gibby Dean, president of the Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fishermen's Association.Given that about 10 tons of poached rockfish have been found, they would have to find an equal amount to close the fishery. You and I both know that if they found 10 tons of illegal fish, there likely another 100 tons going out under cover of darkness. But knowing it, and proving it are entirely different.
The laws that govern DNR say that the agency cannot arbitrarily keep a season closed unless it believes the quota will be exceeded.
It will be interesting to see what the Director of Fisheries decides.