Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Regulations Proposed to Stop Rockfish Poaching

DNR's proposals include:
  • Requiring watermen to mark their gill nets.
  • Banning watermen from having rockfish on their boats outside of the gill net season if they have gill nets or gill net reels on board.
  • Requiring watermen to notify the DNR when they head out to catch rockfish, and also when they return to the dock - a "hail in / hail out" system.
  • Completing random, on-site audits of check-in stations, to make sure fish buyers and watermen are following the rules.
  • Boosting penalties so watermen can lose their rockfish privileges for up to two years for violating harvest laws.
  • Boosting penalties for dealers who violate rockfish laws while running check-in stations.
  • Developing a way for police officers to check a database of rockfish tag numbers while in the field, so they can quickly see if a watermen is using proper tags.
  • Developing a voluntary program to test tracking devices on watermen's boats.
  • Requiring watermen to buy the tags they must put on their fish to track the catch.
This is, of course, in response to several examples of rockfish poaching out of season, and nets abandoned with tons of dead rockfish as amply documented last winter.  Watermen are not thrilled with additional restrictions, but they are wise enough not to protest too loudly:

"It's going to be a nuisance to us, but I think it's necessary," said Larry Simns, longtime president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. "We've got to keep those fellas that are breaking the law from breaking the law."
If they had turned in a few of their brethren who turned outlaw last year, perhaps they wouldn't be facing this now.

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