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Posted at 12:25 PM ET, 02/24/2011

Alleged oysters poachers arrested in Md.

By Washington Post editors

The Maryland Natural Resource police announced Thursday that six Maryland men have been charged 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.

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 state Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery), the tidal fishing license could be permanently revoked by DNR after a hearing.

On Monday at around 11:15 a.m., NRP officers watched as two boats hand tonging for oysters in the Possum Point Oyster Sanctuary of the Corsica River in Queen Anne County. When officers attempted to follow the individuals to harbor, the violators allegedly dumped the oysters into the river in an effort to avoid being caught. They were arrested short time later at the Centreville Wharf.

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

“Taking oysters illegally has to have consequences,'' Frosh said. "Otherwise, we’ll see no turn around in the downward spiral in our oyster population and the Chesapeake Bay.”

Last year, Governor Martin O’Malley (D) put in place an Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan designed to increase the number of oyster sanctuaries in Maryland from nine to 24 percent of remaining quality habitat. The plan also increased the areas open to leasing for oyster aquaculture, 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.

By Washington Post editors  | February 24, 2011; 12:25 PM ET
Categories:  Crime and Public Safety, Maryland  
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