Reward Now Stands at $10,000; Fishery Remains Closed as Investigation Continues
ANNAPOLIS (February 8, 2011) - On February 7, the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) confiscated more than 1,100 pounds of illegally caught striped bass. The discovery came within a week of pulling more than 10 tons of illegally caught striped bass from four illegally anchored gill nets near Bloody Point Light, south of Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay.
NRP seized the latest 1,159 pounds from 1,200 yards of illegally anchored gillnet at the mouth of Eastern Bay, a mile south of the previously located Bloody Point gill nets. Officers also found 600 yards of illegally anchored gill net near Poplar Island that contained about 300 dead horseshoe crabs and a few live striped bass, which were released back into the Bay.
Citizens across Maryland and up and down the East Coast continue to be appalled as more than 10 tons of illegally harvested rockfish our State fish have been pulled from the Chesapeake Bay over the past week, said Governor Martin OMalley. These violations are a shameful theft of the public trust, impacting a fishery we have worked long and hard to restore, our law-abiding watermen, and our sister states that share this important resource.
I want to commend the men and women of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources including the Natural Resources Police, Fisheries Service staff and ice-breaking crews for their management of these operations, Governor OMalley added. I also want to applaud our stakeholder groups, who are contributing toward the reward that has been issued for information in this case. The public will be key to helping identify those who have committed these crimes.
DNR and stakeholders, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Humane Society of the United States, Coastal Conservation Association, the Maryland Watermens Association, the Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermens Association and the Maryland Charter Boat Association, have come together to offer a reward of $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons responsible for setting these anchored gill nets in the vicinity of Bloody Point Light. Funding for the reward will come from dedicated funding as well as contributions from these stakeholder groups, who are publicly denouncing these crimes.
Marylands commercial striped bass fishery is managed on a quota system, in cooperation with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission; the commercial gill net quota for February is 354,318 pounds. When the illegally harvested striped bass confiscated by the NRP were deducted from the quota, DNR was forced to immediately shut down the fishery. The fishery will remain closed until DNR can determine the extent of illegal nets out on the Bay and the amount of striped bass caught in those nets.
The Fisheries Service is committed to reevaluating and enhancing the penalties associated with these types of egregious activities through our regulatory and legislative process, said DNRs Fisheries Service Director Tom OConnell.
State Senator Brian Frosh has introduced a bill that would allow DNR to revoke a license if that licensee is issued a citation for a specified offense related to unlawfully taking striped bass or crabs.
Information on this crime may be called into the Natural Resources Police Catch-a-Poacher Hotline at 800-635-6124. Callers may remain anonymous.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Striped Bass Poaching Spurs Shut Down of February Gill Net Season, Feb. 4, 2011