NRP Charges Two Watermen with Harvesting Oysters from a Sanctuary
“The oyster season is winding down, but our enforcement efforts are not,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Our NRP officers have been relentless in their pursuit of those who would plunder Maryland’s waters and deprive our citizens and honest watermen of this precious natural resource.”
Officers using the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network (MLEIN), a radar and camera system, watched on their laptops as a commercial boat entered the sanctuary at about 8:50 a.m. and begin dredging for oysters.
As the NRP patrol boat approached, the commercial boat motored out of the sanctuary. Officers stopped the boat and ordered the watermen to return to the sanctuary more than four bushels of oysters.
Jason Filmore Evans, 38, and Bennett Troy Sterling Sr., 49, each received a single citation for harvesting oysters within 150 feet of the sanctuary boundary. If they do not pay a fine of $450, they are scheduled to appear in Somerset District Court on June 10.
MLEIN, adapted from the Pentagon’s geo-fencing initiative, became fully operational last fall. Each of the units in the network is able to cover up to 20 miles on the Chesapeake Bay, reaching from the mouth of the Susquehanna River to the Virginia state line. Enhanced enforcement is a major component of Governor Martin O’Malley’s Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan to protect these resources and their habitat.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Office of the Attorney General and the District Court of Maryland have expanded a successful program highlighting natural resources cases to 18 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions. Under the program, cases including fishing, hunting, boating and tree expert violations are heard on a specific day each month in the region where they occurred, and prosecuted by a designated regional State’s Attorney. NRP is working to have natural resource dockets put in place in the remaining six areas ─ Frederick, Harford, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Washington counties, and BaltimoreCity ─ by 2015.