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Four Watermen Charged with Poaching Oysters from Protected Waters

Four watermen were charged with poaching oysters from protected state waters in Dorchester County by the Maryland Natural Resources Police in separate incidents last Wednesday.

Barlett Wade Murphy Jr., 41 and Catherine Marie Gowe, 26, both of McDaniel, were charged with harvesting oysters from a sanctuary and power dredging in a non-designated area. In addition, Murphy was charged with failing to carry Coast Guard-required equipment aboard his commercial boat and failing to obtain an annual certificate of number.

Bryan Joseph Mister, 22, of Tilghman, and John Pershing Price III, 25, of Easton, were charged with harvesting oysters from a sanctuary and patent tonging in a non-designated area.

Officers monitoring oyster harvesting activity on Feb. 15 with the radar units of the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network noticed a vessel working inside the Cook Point Oyster Sanctuary in the Choptank River.

The officers approached the vessel, “Southern Pride” as it was power dredging for oysters. Upon boarding the boat, officers noticed five bushels in the process of being culled.

Murphy acknowledged he knew he was in the sanctuary, “but only for about 10 minutes.”

He was ordered to dump the five bushels overboard and proceed to shore.

After questioning, the officers returned to the sanctuary to get the Global Positioning System coordinates of the boundaries. As they worked, they noticed another commercial work boat, “Linda,” in the sanctuary and boarded it.

Mister said he didn’t know he was in the Cook Point sanctuary. He was ordered to dump 30 bushels of oysters back in the water.

All four watermen were issued citations after an analysis of the data confirmed both vessels were in the sanctuary. They are scheduled to appear in Dorchester District Court on April 20. Both parties were charged with harvesting more than 200 feet inside a sanctuary, which carries a maximum fine of $3,000.