NRP Charges Six With Removing Oysters From a Sanctuary

ANNAPOLIS (February 24, 2011) – The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) on Wednesday charged six men with removing oysters from an oyster sanctuary in the Corsica River.

Benjamin Shafer Byers, 20, of Bozeman; Brandon Howard Mende, 22, of Centreville; Brian Todd Hambleton, 24, of Bozeman; Jeffrey Lee Anthony, 29, of Grasonville; Michael Karlis Murphy, 26, of Queenstown; and Christopher Lee Marvel, 18, of Grasonville were all charged with removing oysters from an oyster sanctuary. Additionally, Marvel and Mende were charged with oystering commercially without a valid license.

“We must continue to send the message that wanton disregard for natural resources law will not be tolerated,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “These violations are a serious abuse of the public’s trust that must be met with serious consequences.”

On February 21 at 11:15 a.m. officers observed two boats hand tonging for oysters in the Possum Point Oyster Sanctuary in the Corsica River, Queen Anne’s County. As NRP attempted to follow the individuals to harbor, the violators dumped the oysters into the river in an effort to avoid being caught. They were apprehended a short time later at the Centreville Warf.

Last year, Governor Martin O’Malley put in place an Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan. The plan increased Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries — from 9 percent to 24 percent of remaining quality habitat; increased areas open to leasing for oyster aquaculture and streamlined the permitting process; and maintained 76 percent of the Bay’s remaining quality oyster habitat for a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically managed public oyster fishery.

Currently, the maximum penalty for removing oysters from an oyster sanctuary is a $3,000 fine and suspension of tidal fish license for 6 -12 months. Under a new bill introduced by Senator Brian Frosh to the State Legislature, the tidal fishing license could be permanently revoked by DNR after a hearing.

“These latest arrests are another demonstration of why we need tough poaching legislation,” said Senator Frosh. “Taking oysters illegally has to have consequences. Otherwise, we’ll see no turn around in the downward spiral in our oyster population and the Chesapeake Bay.”

The men are scheduled for trial April 6 at 1:15 p.m. in the District Court of Maryland for Queen Anne’s County.

Source: Maryland Natural Resources Police

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