More Rockfish Poaching Nets Discovered

Reward for Information Now Up to $20,000

ANNAPOLIS (February 15, 2011) – The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) located additional illegal anchored gill nets on Friday evening, February 11. Two 900 yard strings of illegal anchored gill nets were located in Eastern Bay. One net was found about a mile south of Bloody Point Light and the second net was found about 2 miles northeast of Bloody Point Light in Eastern Bay.

A total of 3,879 pounds of rockfish were removed from the anchored gill nets. Those fish will be sold and the money will be used for natural resources law enforcement. NRP patrol boat GPS track lines indicated that the area where the nets were found had been previously searched the week before. At that time, there were no indications of nets in the area.

Discovery of the illegal gill nets comes less than two weeks after NRP confiscated 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. After the initial find, DNR was forced to shut down the striped bass gill net season.

The DNR is now offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of poachers involved in illegally catching the first 10 tons of rockfish DNR, its partners and private citizens are putting forward $10,000 and the Chesapeake Bay Savers is matching that money with another $10,000.

“I want to thank the Chesapeake Bay Savers and all of our partners who have donated money,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “This money is not only a reward, but represents the commitment of all Marylanders to invest in restoring the native populations in the Bay and protecting that investment.”

"Poachers are criminals who destroy the Chesapeake Bay for their personal profit and take the food off the table of honest, hard-working watermen who take pride in working Maryland’s waters,” said Evan Thalenberg, Chesapeake Bay Savers founder.

Maryland’s 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. Before reopening the season, DNR will make sure the current system for accounting for harvest is sufficient and that reopening does not increase the risk for further poaching.

DNR stakeholders immediately stepped up to donate money for a reward. A private citizen also pledged $500 toward catching the poacher or poachers responsible. The Chesapeake Bay Savers then pledged to match the total reward.

The Chesapeake Bay Savers was founded in 2009 and represent thousands of Maryland taxpayers who are vocal about the need to improve the water quality of the Bay and replenish its natural resources such as oysters and crabs. Their mission is to participate in grassroots projects such as aquaculture and advocate for laws that protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)


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