Friday, March 11, 2016

Oyster Poaching Season is On

Four watermen were charged with poaching oysters from protected state waters in Dorchester County by the Maryland Natural Resources Police in separate incidents last Wednesday.
. . .
Officers monitoring oyster harvesting activity on Feb. 15 with the radar units of the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network noticed a vessel working inside the Cook Point Oyster Sanctuary in the Choptank River.

The officers approached the vessel, “Southern Pride” as it was power dredging for oysters. Upon boarding the boat, officers noticed five bushels in the process of being culled.

Murphy acknowledged he knew he was in the sanctuary, “but only for about 10 minutes.”

He was ordered to dump the five bushels overboard and proceed to shore.

After questioning, the officers returned to the sanctuary to get the Global Positioning System coordinates of the boundaries. As they worked, they noticed another commercial work boat, “Linda,” in the sanctuary and boarded it.

Mister said he didn’t know he was in the Cook Point sanctuary. He was ordered to dump 30 bushels of oysters back in the water.

All four watermen were issued citations after an analysis of the data confirmed both vessels were in the sanctuary. They are scheduled to appear in Dorchester District Court on April 20. Both parties were charged with harvesting more than 200 feet inside a sanctuary, which carries a maximum fine of $3,000.
Watermen really don't like oyster sanctuaries:  Proposed oyster study draws watermen’s ire
. . . As introduced, the bill would have barred the DNR from doing anything to increase wild oyster harvests until the study is finished — proposed restrictions that raised the hackles of watermen, industry representatives and state fisheries officials. In a bid for a compromise, Manno said those curbs would be dropped from the legislation, calling them an “over-reach.”

But opponents were not mollified. Watermen from around the state lined the witness table to question the need for the study.

“We’re scared that a study like this is just going to impose more restrictions on us,” said Lance Lumpkins, a 28-year-old waterman from St. Mary’s County, who noted that there aren’t many young men like him in a fishery that hasn’t offered much of a living until lately.
True; all the smart ones saw the writing on the wall and found real jobs.
Opponents pointed out that the DNR is already in the process of reviewing its oyster management policies, especially the extensive network of sanctuaries created five years ago that have put 25 percent of the historic bivalve habitat off limits to harvest. That review is scheduled to be completed in June or July, according to state officials.

“There is no reason to have another study,” said Robert T. Brown Sr., president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association. He complained the bill doesn’t offer any role in the study for watermen, even though he contended they know more about oysters from harvesting them than anyone else.
My oyster recovery plan; ban harvesting wild oysters in Chesapeake Bay for 5, or preferably 10 years, and other than monitoring the population, do nothing to restore them. If, after 5 or 10 years, the oyster populations seem to be recovering well on their own, decide if you want to spend real money to restore them.

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