Saturday, October 26, 2013

Oystering: Business as Usual

Two Rock Hall watermen were charged last week with harvesting 26 bushels of oysters, of which many were undersized, from a Patuxent River sanctuary. Benjamin Leonard Reihl, 26, and Adam Vincent Reihl, 21, received citations for having a harvest containing 15 percent undersized oysters and for taking oysters from a closed area.

...Acting on a tip last Wednesday, Oct. 16, officers from St. Mary’s and Calvert counties placed the sanctuary near Greenwell State Park under surveillance and saw two oyster boats in legal waters, according to the press release. When one boat departed, the other moved to the Neal Addison Oyster Sanctuary.

As the patrol boat approached, the watermen moved back to legal waters. Officers inspected two bushels and found undersized oysters, according to the release. They escorted the boat to Solomons, where all 26 bushels were checked. Officers returned the oysters to the sanctuary.

Benjamin Reihl has been found guilty of multiple natural resources violations dating back to 2007, according to the press release. He was charged Oct. 4 with possessing a harvest with 9 percent undersized oysters taken from the Patuxent River in Calvert County. His oyster license is under suspension, but he was fishing last Wednesday as a designee on his father’s license, which is legal.
Revoke both licenses permanently.  If it were up to me, wild oyster harvesting would be banned for 5-10 years anyway while we figure out if it's possible for American Oysters to maintain a fish-able population in the Bay. That's two.  Where are the other two?
NRP officers also issued citations Oct. 17 to two watermen for having a harvest containing 9 percent undersized oysters.

Richard Brent Buff, 39, of Port Republic and Patrick Joseph Mahoney Jr., 33, of Annapolis are scheduled to appear in Calvert County District Court in December, the release states.
I have a little more sympathy here.  Oysters grow on each other and it's possible that the NRP officers are counting spat living on legal sized oysters.  On the other hand, they may not be measuring oysters, just "eying" them to determine whether they're legal.

Oyster poaching has a long history in Chesapeake Bay, starting with the "Chesapeake Oyster Wars" in 1865 and continuing to the present.  It will only be stamped out by firm enforcement of the rules, and will likely require an additional generation to work.  A long "time out" might help.

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