News from the DNR Office of Communications

NRP Nabs Oyster Poacher One Month After Season Closed

Annapolis, Md. (May 3, 2010) – The Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) charged a waterman April 28 with poaching oysters, 28 days after the March 31 close of the season. Ben Harrison Marshall, 34 of Newcomb, Md., was charged with taking oysters during closed season and operating a power dredge in an area reserved for hand tongs.

“We are sending a message to wanton abusers of natural resources that these are serious violations and we will take them seriously,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “They are a violation of the public’s trust and stealing from the pockets of working Marylanders.”

On April 28, an NRP officer observed a commercial work boat power dredging for oysters in the Tred Avon River, near the Bellevue Public Landing in Talbot County. The officer made contact with the vessel operator when it came to shore at the Bellevue Ferry dock.

When Marshall was question by the officer, he stated that he had been perch fishing, although no fish or fishing poles were found on the vessel. Upon inspection, the officer found five and half bushels of oysters hidden in the cabin of the boat. Marshall had covered the oysters with clothing in an attempt to conceal them. NRP subsequently returned the oysters to the water.

Marshall’s charges carry a prepayable fine of $320 for operating a power dredge in an area reserved for hand tongs and $125 for taking oysters for commercial purposes during closed season. Marshall is set to appear June 17 in Talbot County District Court.

The arrest comes on the heels of ramped up oyster enforcement by NRP in conjunction with Governor O’Malley’s Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan. DNR plans to submit new oyster regulations May 27. As proposed, the plan will: increase Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries — from 9 percent to 24 percent of remaining quality habitat; increase areas open to leasing for oyster aquaculture and streamline the permitting process; and maintain 76 percent of the Bay’s remaining quality oyster habitat for a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically managed public oyster fishery.

Since 1994, the Chesapeake Bay oyster population has languished at 1 percent of historic levels. Over the past 25 years, the amount of suitable oyster habitat has declined by 80 percent—from 200,000 acres to just 36,000 acres. Maryland’s annual oyster harvest has fallen from an average of 2.5 million bushels in the late 1960s to about 100,000 bushels a year since 2002, while the
number of oystermen working Maryland’s portion of the Bay has dwindled from more than 2000 to just 550.

NRP reminds to Marylanders to report suspicious activity to the statewide Communication Center at 800-628-9944 or 410-260-8888.

   May 3, 2010

Contact: Sgt. A.A. Windemuth
410-260-8003 office | 410-713-8449 cell

The Maryland Natural Resources Police is the enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With an authorized strength of 247 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