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Bringing Out The Big Guns To Tout Oyster Defense

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Schuh Mike 370x278 (2) Mike Schuh
Mike Schuh joined WJZ Eyewitness News as a general assignment reporter...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — You’ve probably never heard of the Maryland Oyster Patrol Police, but you know their successors.

As Mike Schuh reports, the Maryland Natural Resource Police floated in Thursday, and rolled out their newest and oldest pieces of equipment.

Just how is a new half a million dollar aluminum boat and a century-and-a-half old cannon related? Go back 150 years when oysters were Maryland’s largest industry.

Back then, dredge boats from the played out waters off New England arrived. Legal Maryland watermen put up a violent fight. We had laws, but no lawmen.

“But without an enforcement unit on the water to enforce the laws, they weren’t very effective,” said Greg Bartles, DNR historian.

Enter the cannon–bought by the new Oyster Police Patrol.

“The outlaw watermen would shoot at the police as they approached to try to prevent them from illegally harvesting the oysters,” said Bartles.

That very cannon goes on display Thursday at the Baltimore Visitors Center.

“It was used primarily to shoot the rigging out of the outlaw sailboats so they would stop and the crew could be arrested,” he said.

You may have heard of the successor to those oyster police. They’re called the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police. All this time later, they’re still chasing the same bad guys. Now they are doing on a boat delivered just this week.

“This is our new vessel. A 38-foot metalshark,” said Officer Rodney Smith. “It’s like a new toy, you know?”

Hi-tech, no cannon–but the same waterways.

“We’ll be pretty much out of Sandy Point, patrolling the Chesapeake Bay,” Smith said.

“So we are still here today, 145 years later protecting that oyster resource,” said Bartles.

A shot across the bow, its roots anchored in gunpowder, wind and sail.

“It’s got all the latest technology on it that we could need to fight the same type of poaching that still exists,” said George Johnson IV, Md. Department of Natural Resources Police Superintendent.

That cannon will remain at the Visitors Center.

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