News from the DNR Office of Communications

Crisfield Resident Charged With Oyster Violation

Crisfield, MD (January 4, 2010) - The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) has charged Donald Robert Wharton, 44, of Crisfield, Md. with possession and transportation of unculled oysters. On December 23, a Somerset County Sheriff’s deputy who was investigating a suspicious vehicle complaint on William Maddox Road in Crisfield found unculled oysters in Wharton’s truck.

“We must all understand the importance of following the rules for taking oysters,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Director Tom O’Connell. “These regulations are simply prudent measures to protect and aid in the restoration of this environmentally and culturally important shellfish.”

In Maryland it is illegal to possess oysters attached to their habitat or cultch—the hard substrate that oysters must attach to in order to survive and grow. The regulation is intended to protect undersized oysters (under three inches) and to preserve the critical habitat that juvenile oysters need to survive. The culling of oysters is the act of sorting legal oysters from undersized oysters and returning the small oysters along with the cultch to thrive and grow. Removing cultch and undersized oysters removes important habitat for future oyster generations.

The regulation includes a reasonable allowance in a legal harvest of oysters by permitting a combined total of 5 percent of undersized oysters and cultch consisting of shells, stones, gravel, and slag.

The NRP believes Wharton was harvesting oysters for personal use. Marylanders are allowed to harvest as much as a bushel a day without a license during a season that extends from October through March with fishing times from sunrise to 3 p.m.

A first conviction of violating this regulation may result in a fine up to $500.

Wharton is scheduled to appear in the District Court of Maryland for Somerset County in Princess Anne on February 11, 2010.

   January 4, 2010

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.

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