ANNAPOLIS- The weeks before Christmas tend to be the most active for oyster poachers, but the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and State Police hope new technology and harsher penalties will help crack down on illegal oyster harvesting in the Chesapeake Bay.
Poaching includes harvesting undersized oysters, exceeding bushel limits or harvesting in areas designated as sanctuaries, Maryland Natural Resources Police Capt. David Larsen said.
Oyster poaching has also become a large problem over the years, because it undermines attempts at restoring oyster populations. Mostly due to overharvesting and disease, “currently less than 1 percent of historic levels of oysters exist in the bay,” Sarah Widman, a Department of Natural Resources Fishery spokeswoman said. Poaching also compromises researchers’ ability to gather data. “It’s very frustrating from a scientific perspective,” said Don Meritt, director of the Horn Point Laboratory.