ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Investigators are widening their net, trying to hunt down whoever is illegally pulling tons of striped bass out of the bay. Police are using every weapon they have, even tracking devices.
Kelly McPherson explains the new clues investigators are following.
Striped bass—also known as rockfish—season closed just days after it began. More than ten and a half tons of the fish have been captured illegally and more anchored, illegal nets have been discovered this week.
“It is striped bass season. We are in gill netting season. We have illegal nets out there. Our force is focused on that problem right now,” said Joseph Gill, Department of Natural Resources Deputy Secretary.
All of the illegal nets have been found off the Eastern Shore, south of the Bay Bridge. Investigators believe that this isn’t just one person, but a group of people poaching the striped bass. The nets can catch massive amounts of fish while anchored to the bay floor for days. Nets are supposed to be tended to prevent other wildlife from dying. Police have been monitoring the illegal nets, but none of the owners have shown up to collect their catch.
Black devices have been discovered by irritated watermen, who called police, thinking the box was a bomb.
“I can tell you that whatever surveillance techniques we’re using have been authorized by law,” said Gill.
But those breaking the law are putting honest watermen out of work for at least two months.
“They’re just like people in the dope business. They show up and they know where the cops are and what they’re doing. To me they’re just as bad as that because they’re stealing from the other watermen,” said Larry Simns, Maryland Watermen’s Association President. “I hope they catch them so they can lose their license.”
When the officers pull up fish already captured, they send the under- and oversized fish to homeless shelters. The others are sold at market. The money goes toward increased enforcement.
Poachers face thousands of dollars in fines and a year in jail.