Rockfish Poaching Reward Now Tops $30,000 - Southern Maryland Headline News

Rockfish Poaching Reward Now Tops $30,000

Two citizens donate $8,000 towards reward; Gill Net Fishery Remains Closed

ANNAPOLIS (February 18, 2010) — Thanks to extraordinary responses from stakeholders and private citizens, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is now offering $30,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for attempting to steal 10 tons of rockfish off of Bloody Point in the Chesapeake Bay.

DNR has set aside $5,000 from the sale of the poached fish for the reward. The agency’s partners have put up an additional $17,500, including a $10,000 donation by the Chesapeake BaySavers. Today, two private citizens — who wish to remain anonymous — have stepped up and donated $8,000 to further encourage those with information to come forward.

“The fact that these private citizens are joining our effort to identify these criminals is testament to the anger being felt across our State and along the East Coast. We cannot thank them enough for their selfless contribution,” said Governor Martin O'Malley. "We — as Marylanders —have invested time, effort and money toward revitalizing the striped bass population and stealing from this fishery is stealing from all us.”

On February 1, Natural Resources Police confiscated the first of four illegally anchored gill nets with more than 10 tons of striped bass near Bloody Point Light, south of Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay.

On February 11, NRP located additional illegally anchored gill nets. Two 900-yard strings of illegal anchored gill nets were located in Eastern Bay. One net was found about a mile south and the second net was found about two and a half miles northeast of Bloody Point Light. A total of 3,879 pounds of rockfish were removed from the second string of anchored gill nets, which officers believe were set after the shut down of the fishery on February 4.

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.

Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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