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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well, a little comment. The Star-Democrat appears to be a mouthpiece for the commercial industry, or is at the least quite sympathetic. Interesting to see how they report on the current situation. However, look at the bold type. Perhaps we do have a toe-hold on getting something done. Gotta get it to the general public, though.

Rockfish gill net fishery to reopen

Season open Friday and Monday; DNR head: 'Certain individuals' under suspicion in poaching
Wednesday, February 23, 2011 By JACK SHAUM Staff Writer The Star Democrat
ANNAPOLIS Maryland's commercial gill net fishery for rockfish, which has been closed since Feb. 4 because of the illegal catching of the fish near Kent Island, will re-open for two days before the end of the month.
At the same time, John Griffin, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, said "certain individuals" are under suspicion in connection with the poaching, but he wouldn't elaborate.
Griffin also opened up the possibility that commercial gill net fishing might be phased out if adequate new reforms to the fishery cannot be developed.

On Tuesday, Griffin ordered the fishery be re-opened on Friday, Feb. 25, and Monday, Feb, 28, with all normal harvest restrictions in place. He said Natural Resources Police patrols will be increased and there will be additional personnel on duty at rockfish check-in stations.
"We do not believe that re-opening the fishery for a couple of days here at the end of the month … will likely carry us over the quota for this month," he said in a conference call with reporters.
Griffin said that even after deducting the 12 tons of rockfish illegally caught in the anchored gill nets, there are still about 200,000 pounds of fish remaining in this month's statewide quota. Maryland's commercial gill net quota for February is 354,318 pounds and the state's annual commercial quota is two million pounds.
"I just concluded that, weighing everything, that re-opening the fishery for a couple of days was the sensible and right thing to do," he said. The secretary said he acted after consulting with fisheries personnel, NRP and many stakeholders.
More than 12 tons of rockfish caught in illegal anchored, submerged gill nets were found near Kent Island on several occasions beginning Jan. 31. The most recent series of nets were found the afternoon of Feb. 16 in Eastern Bay. No other illegal nets have been found since then, Griffin said.
The nets found Feb. 16 were the result of a tip and contained live rockfish and dead mud shad, indicating the nets had been there for some time, officials said. Because the rockfish were too stressed to return to the wild and probably would not have survived, they were donated to the Our Haven Homeless Shelter on Kent Island.
Since the discovery of the first of the illegal nets, NRP has increased patrols and has also relied on a DNR research vessel with side-scan sonar to help locate nets. Griffin also said investigators have been helped by "credible information" about where anchored gill nets might be located.
No suspects have been named in the poaching and no arrests have been made, but Griffin hinted that investigators are making progress.
"It's still under active investigation and there are certain individuals that are under particular suspicion, and that's about all it's appropriate to say about it," he said. "We have received through personal conversations … comments from watermen and other fishermen about where nets are located … and we've been pursuing those by going out to those locations and seeing what we can find."
Asked if the "certain individuals" are considered to be people of interest in the investigation, Griffin said, "I suppose that's one way you can refer to them."
The reward for information leading to arrests and convictions in the poaching stands at $30,500 from a variety of sources, including two citizens who contributed $8,000 to the award fund on Friday. "We cannot thank them enough for their selfless contribution," Gov. Martin O'Malley said in a statement.
Griffin said DNR and its stakeholders are discussing the need for reforms in the way the gill net fishery is conducted. He said the stakeholders are being asked to help develop such reforms so that there can be improved enforcement of gill net regulations.
Among other things, officials have determined there isn't enough accountability at rockfish check-in stations and that they may wind up having to be run by the state. Griffin said the time has come to move to a "different culture" among all fishing groups in terms of being more accountable.
Other reforms could come from changes in regulations and statutes as well as legislation before the General Assembly that calls for greater penalties for illegal fishing.
"And if they don't work … if we can't develop a set of what we consider to be effective additional ways to respond to some of the problems we've observed, I think we're going to need to take a look at phasing out gill nets," the secretary said.
Anyone with information on the poaching should call NRP's Catch-a-Poacher Hotline at 800-635-6124. Callers may remain anonymous.

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Pat in Joppa
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