News from the DNR Office of Communications

Maryland Natural Resources Charge 2 with Oyster Poaching

Annapolis, MD (December 4, 2009) - Over the past two weeks, the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) have investigated several reports of oyster poaching, which resulted in the following charges.

On December 2, 2009 at 9:00 am in Dorchester County, the NRP charged Joseph A. Coleman Jr., age 72 of Chester, Maryland, with harvesting oysters with in an oyster sanctuary. Coleman was observed by NRP officers harvesting oysters on the Sandy Hill Oyster Sanctuary on the Choptank River.

On November 24, 2009 in Somerset County, the NRP charged Russell James Swift, 38, of Crisfield, Md. with harvesting oysters with in an oyster sanctuary. Swift was observed by NRP Officers harvesting oysters within the Oyster Sanctuary located in Tangier Sound near the Big Annemessex River.

Oyster Sanctuaries are protected areas for the propagation of oysters and do not allow the harvesting of oysters within the marked boundaries.

Yesterday, Governor Martin O’Malley released the details of Maryland’s Proposed Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan, a new multi-faceted effort to rebuild Maryland’s decimated native oyster population. The plan will build on efforts expand oyster sanctuaries increase aquaculture leasing opportunities, while maintaining a more targeted, scientifically managed public fishery.

As part of the plan, DNR is undertaking a number of enforcement reforms, among them working with federal partners to install a network of radars and cameras that will help the NRP monitor oyster sanctuaries and prevent poaching.

“Our native oyster is part of the public trust,” said Governor Martin O’Malley, “and we have a clear and urgent responsibility to restore and protect this iconic species for future generations,” said Governor O’Malley.”

   December 4, 2009

Contact: Sgt. Art Windemuth

The Maryland Natural Resources Police is the enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With an authorized strength of 249 officers and a dedicated staff of civilian and volunteer personnel, the NRP provide a variety of services in addition to conservation and boating law enforcement duties throughout the State of Maryland. These services include homeland security, search and rescue, emergency medical services, education, information and communications services on a round the clock basis. NRP is the only police force aside from the Maryland State Police that has statewide jurisdiction.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 461,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries, and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic, and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority.  Learn more at