Watermen Charged with Poaching in So. Md. Oyster Sanctuary; Undersized Harvest

(October 17, 2013) Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) charged two Rock Hall watermen Wednesday afternoon with harvesting 26 bushels of oysters—many of them undersized—from a Patuxent River sanctuary.

“Poaching oysters is a crime against law-abiding watermen and Maryland citizens and will not be tolerated,” said Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent. “In this case, the public supplied information and the diligence of our officers paid off.”

Today, officers also charged two other watermen working on the Patuxent River with harvesting undersized oysters.

The actions came as law enforcement activities are ramping up for the six-month oyster season. NRP is using saturation patrols, aerial reconnaissance, and electronic and video surveillance to clamp down on illegal harvesting.

Acting on a tip Wednesday, officers from St. Mary’s and Calvert counties placed the sanctuary near Greenwell State Park under surveillance and saw two oyster boats in legal waters. When one boat departed, the other moved to the Neal Addition Oyster Sanctuary.

As a patrol boat approached, the watermen moved back to legal waters. Officers inspected two bushels and found undersized oysters. They escorted the boat to Solomons, where all 26 bushels were checked.

Benjamin Leonard Reihl, 26, and Adam Vincent Reihl, 21, received citations for having a harvest that contained 15 percent undersized oysters and for taking oysters from a closed area.

Officers returned the oysters to the sanctuary.

The older Reihl has been found guilty of multiple natural resources violations dating back to 2007. He was charged on Oct. 4 with possessing a harvest with nine percent undersized oysters taken from the Patuxent River in Calvert County. His oyster license is under suspension but he was fishing Wednesday as a designee on his father’s license, which is legal.

In today’s incidents, officers conducting routine inspections issued citations to the two watermen for having a harvest that contain nine percent undersized oysters.

Richard Brent Buff, 39, of Port Republic, and Patrick Joseph Mahoney Jr., 33, of Annapolis, are scheduled to appear in Calvert District Court in December.

“We urge citizens to report illegal activities to call the Catch-A-Poacher hotline at 1-800-635-6124. This partnership is vital in developing a sustainable Chesapeake Bay,” Johnson said.

Enhanced enforcement is one of the goals of Governor Martin O’Malley’s 10-point Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan adopted in May 2010. The Governor recently joined citizens, stakeholders, partners and staff to celebrate the production and planting of a record 1.25 billion spat in Maryland this year, and significant progress under all 10 points of the Plan.

In May 2011, the Governor signed into law legislation to protect Maryland’s fisheries and encourage shellfish aquaculture. As part of an overall focus on enforcement efforts to better protect Maryland’s public fishery resources, DNR also established a tougher penalty system for commercial fishing violations. Previously, a waterman had to receive multiple convictions before the department could impose a suspension; the new system allows the agency to impose suspensions for a single conviction. Additionally, the State increased the penalty for engaging in commercial fishing with a suspended license, a revoked license or without a license, by establishing a fine of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to one year.

Source: Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources

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