Sunday, May 15, 2011

Time to Bug the Watermen

Candy Thompson had a pretty good editorial yesterday:

Topic 1 - Time to force the watermen to carry transponders so DNR will always know where and when they are fishing:
Think of it, a fishing boat leaves Rock Hall and at the NRP communications and dispatch center at Sandy Point State Park a marker appears on the big screen with the boat's ID. The boat enters closed waters, a sanctuary or is fishing when it shouldn't be and the cops know it.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requires a vessel monitoring system (VMS) on more than 5,000 commercial boats fishing for specific species in federal waters. Special Agent Logan Gregory of NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement says the 23-year old system is "a deterrent" to fishing in closed areas and fishing out of season. It also helps managers keep track of the level of fishing activity.

The $3,000 units not only transmit information, they also receive messages from NOAA about closures and warnings when they stray into forbidden areas. The data is protected by federal law to prevent one commercial fisherman from acquiring proprietary information about another, Gregory says.
Earlier this year, DNR did plant monitoring units on some boats, probably those suspected of poaching.  If the Obama administration can float the idea of putting monitoring units on cars to track mileage, I don't see why you can't monitor fishermen to see they're fishing illegally.

Topic 2 - Catch shares for crabs in Maryland:
A ballyhooed deal between the watermen, DNR and the Environmental Defense Fund to hammer out a crab deal most likely will end in August after a year of frustration and failure. EDF was paid $500,000 to coax the watermen to accept a catch shares program: DNR would give each licensed crabber a guaranteed piece of the bay-wide quota, which could be used or sold.

But the watermen mistrust catch shares, fearing a few deep-pocket interests will buy out the little guys. And no one has proven it can work here because while the winter survey provides an accurate picture of how many crabs we have to start with, the harvest reports submitted by watermen are grossly inaccurate. How can you give someone a share of something when you don't know how much you have?
 In other news Pete Jensen, long time DNR official and ultimately Associate Deputy Director at his resignation in 2005, and long-time advocate for commercial fishing, has been hired by the Maryland Watermen's Association to advocate on their behalf.  
Recognizing the potential for a sea change, the Maryland Watermen's Association made the first move, hiring Pete Jensen to help protect its interests. The long-time Department of Natural Resources official ended his ties with state government in 2005 amid concerns that he was too cozy with the commercial industry.
At least he's coming clean on which side he has been on.

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