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Habitat Restoration, Improved Monitoring & Enforcement Crucial
Annapolis, Maryland - Maryland's Task Force on Fisheries Management recently submitted its 2008 Legislative Report to Governor Martin O'Malley, members of the Maryland General Assembly, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin.

"Maryland's diverse fishery resources are irreplaceable, often serving as the center of our local economies, culture and quality of life," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "We appreciate the many hours volunteered by the task force's members to work with our fishery managers to improve the way we manage and protect fish resources across the state."

The Task Force's report offers more than 30 specific recommendations on habitat preservation and restoration, fisheries stock monitoring and assessment, data management, fishery management, legal issues, and enforcement.

"Enforcing fishing laws and regulations, and protecting and restoring habitat are critical issues facing fisheries conservation in Maryland," said Task Force Chairman, Thomas B. Lewis. "Without quality habitat, other efforts to improve fisheries management and protection will be of limited value. Additionally, in order to successfully meet current and future fisheries management challenges, stronger enforcement - on the ground, in the water, and in the courts is desperately needed. Without enforcement, even the best fishery management plans are doomed to fail."

Highlights of the Task Force's recommendations include:

* Rebuilding DNR's environmental review group and developing strategic, quantitative habitat criteria for state and local land use planners and permitting agencies to use in order to protect waterways and aquatic resources;

* Prioritizing fisheries stock monitoring activities, with citizen input and a continuing evolution toward multi-species and ecosystem-based monitoring;

* Centralizing biological, harvest and angler data to create a searchable, comprehensive database accessible to fisheries managers, habitat managers, and land use decision-makers;

* Expanding DNR's legal authority to create management plans for additional species and increase public involvement in development and implementation of fisheries management plans;

* Updating and revising antiquated and inconsistent fisheries laws; and

* Establishing a permanent funding source for the Natural Resources Police to avoid future loss of personnel and fund critical equipment upgrade needs.

"Members of the task force, while representing divergent constituencies, came together with the Fisheries Service professional in a remarkable collaboration to evaluate Maryland's fisheries management and find practical ways to improve and modernize the State's efforts," said Lewis. "We believe these proposed improvements will lead to increased citizen involvement, higher focus on habitat protection and restoration, and additional enforcement support to protect our fisheries. We are also glad to see that many of our recommendations are already being implemented by the Fisheries Service."

During the 2009 session of the Maryland General Assembly, DNR expects to request legislation to implement some of the Task Force's recommendations.

Governor O'Malley established the 17-member task force, comprised of scientists, recreational anglers, watermen, charter boat captains and conservationists, last November. The Fisheries Management Reform Act (Senate Bill 1012) charged the Task Force with developing new strategies to better manage Maryland's valuable fishery resources.

For the full report, visit Maryland Task Force on Fisheries Management.
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