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NRP seized approximately 16,500 yards of illegally anchored gill (approximately 55 nets) and 3,200 lbs. of rockfish during the last week and half of February. The nets were seized as officers patrolled the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in search of illegal poaching activity.
Licensed commercial watermen are allowed to fish only attended drift gillnets when catching striped bass. Attended drift gill nets are nets that float vertically in the water column and move with the currents of the water. The fish are caught by the gills as they swim into the net. The watermen must remain with in a 1 mile radius of nets in the tributaries and within 2 miles of nets in the main bay. This attention to the net ensures that non targeted species can be removed from the net and released. The seized nets were found anchored and unattended.
NRP makes the removal of the illegal nets a priority. These nets continue to catch all species of fish and other aquatic creatures as long as they remain in the water. The seized nets were found to contain not only rockfish but dead diving ducks and loons.
The commercial striped bass gill net fisheries are held in the months of December, January and February.
Five hundred pounds of the recovered fish were donated to the Joseph House in Salisbury and the remainder was sold.

Under changes to law made by the General Assembly in 2009,an individual, if convicted, could face up to $1000 for a first offense and up to $2000 for each subsequent offense. Additionally, on February 22, 2010, the Department’s new commercial fishing points and suspension system took effect. If convicted, these individuals could face additional penalties in the form of points on their license resulting in license suspensions. Offenses for convictions of possessing mutilated fish whose size and weight cannot be determined are given 5 points each with 30 day suspensions applying to any licensee with at least 10 points. Suspensions increase as the number of points increases on a license. Suspensions, regardless of points, for egregious violations are maintained in this new system and still include provisions of 180 to 365 day suspensions for harvesting oysters more than 2 hours outside of the designated time.
 

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Judge Suspends Convicted Poacher's Commercial License for 1 Year

A Queen Anne’s County District Court judge found John Franklin Riggs, 45 of Rock Hall, guilty of possessing oversized rockfish and suspended the waterman’s tidal fish license for a year. This suspension means Riggs cannot engage in any commercial fishing activity until March 10, 2011.
“We commend the court’s decision on this very important issue,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. “Hard working Marylanders have invested far too much in our Bay and our fisheries to allow the theft of these fragile resources.”
NRP charged Riggs on January 11, 2010 with possessing striped bass larger than 36” during the commercial striped bass gill net season; Riggs also has a history of natural resources violations.
On December 26 – well outside legal harvesting hours – NRP arrested Riggs with seven bushels of oysters on his boat. Then, on February 24 NRP arrested Riggs for failing to check in striped bass during the required times. NRP officers located striped bass hidden in the cabin of a boat belonging to Riggs. The fish were not checked into a DNR check station within three hours of completing a fishing trip and before 9:00 pm.
Riggs is also facing charges of failing to properly mark gill nets in the Chesapeake Bay and setting or maintaining an unattended striped bass gill net. On February 24, NRP officers located several unattended striped bass gill nets in the Chesapeake Bay and were able to identify the nets as belonging to Riggs.
Since Rigg’s initial arrest, DNR has implemented a new penalty system. Under the new system, which went into effect February 22, crimes are now organized into three tiers, which carry both immediate penalties and points that can be accrued toward a suspension of a license. For egregious violations, DNR can suspend a license on a first offense.
 
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