NRP Radar Network Continues to Thwart Oyster Poachers
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NRP Radar Network Continues to Thwart Oyster Poachers

A screen shot from MLEIN of the targeted dredge boat inside the boundary of the oyster sanctuary.

A screen shot from MLEIN of the targeted dredge boat inside the boundary of the oyster sanctuary.

Using its newest enforcement tool, Maryland Natural Resources Police detected two watermen encroaching on an oyster sanctuary in Tangier Sound and arrested them Monday for poaching.

William Cloyde Catlin, 64, of Upper Fairmount, and Irving Lee Catlin, 55, of Westover, were each charged with unlawfully harvesting wild oysters up to 150 feet inside a sanctuary. Seven bushels of oysters were returned to the sanctuary.

According to Maryland court records, William Catlin has a history of crab, oyster and fishing violations dating back to 1993.

An officer watched on his laptop as the cameras and radar units of the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network (MLEIN) tracked the watermen crossing the boundary of the sanctuary set aside by the State for oyster population replenishment.

“MLEIN was a definite asset on the water and enhanced our ability to respond to the situation,” said Officer John Bromley. “It was like having an extra pair of eyes on the patrol boat.”

The incident began at about 8 a.m., when Bromley, aboard his patrol boat tucked in a cove of the Manokin River, watched a vessel make four passes into the oyster sanctuary in Tangier Sound, west of the Big Annemessex River. The vessel motored in a circular pattern, indicative of an oyster dredging operation.

The officer sped to the location as the work boat attempted to flee the sanctuary with its dredge still in the water.

The 2010 Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan fostered by Governor Martin O’Malley contained a robust enforcement component to protect the resource and areas such as the Somerset Sanctuary, one of the State’s oldest.

Col. George F. Johnson IV, NRP superintendent, said MLEIN is beginning to get its sea legs in its first full season.

“When the Governor initiated his oyster recovery plan, enforcement was a huge component to assure the public that its investment would be protected,” Johnson said. “MLEIN is helping us keep our promise to everyone who loves the Chesapeake Bay and its bounty and believes in its future. With continued use and enhancements, MLEIN’s reach will grow. Poachers will learn that there is no where to hide.”

In a separate incident, officers charged Shawn Michael Horney, 48, of Grasonville, with possessing a harvest containing 9 percent undersized oysters. Horney was stopped last Friday just outside Cuckhold Creek in St. Mary’s County.

Court records show Horney was found guilty in 2009 in Queen Anne’s District Court of possessing oysters before legal hours and operating without lights. In 2003, he was found guilty of possessing undersized oysters.

Earlier this month, Maryland State Police helicopters began surveillance flights with NRP officers aboard as observers to track vessels and direct patrol boats to the scene of illegal activity. The flights will run through the end of oyster season in March.

Contact: Candy Thomson
410-279-3916 cell