BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Oysters figure prominently at Maryland Thanksgivings–a demand hundreds of watermen are working hard right now to meet.

Alex DeMetrick reports it also has police working hard.

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Hundreds of boats under an oyster colored sky work the Choptank River and its tributaries off Tilghman Island. All are after the same catch–the wild oyster harvest.

“It’s been good though so far. It’s getting cut up some now, but it’s been good,” said waterman Richard Manley.

It’s also been tight quarters as power dredging gets underway. That’s because an increasing number of oyster bars have been declared sanctuaries and put off limits.

“We’ve all been pushed into a small area from the sanctuaries and whatnot,” said Larry Scharch, waterman.

It falls to Natural Resources Police to make sure boats work where they’re supposed to.

“Everybody sees you and then people they tend to say today’s probably not a good day to try to skirt the line or cross the line,” said Sgt. John Buchanan, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police.

But it’s not the only law. NRP officers board as many boats as they can, checking to make sure licenses are up to date and oysters are legal size. A small percentage of undersized is allowed, but:

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“Anything over five percent, they can receive a citation. And the more percentage they have of small oysters, the higher the fine,” said Officer Ron Cheezum, Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police.

Because those small ones tossed back are everyone’s future.

“Still a lot of little ones here to cull through. It’ll be alright. Good for next year and the year after,” one waterman said.

Because livelihoods are at stake, police presence makes a difference.

“They need to be here to keep an eye on it,” Manley said.

Along with an ability to adapt to rules that have forced changes to tradition.

“We’re still here. We haven’t left,” said Scharch.

And neither have police.

Natural Resources Police say 90 percent of watermen obey the rules. During all of last oyster season, 130 citations were written.

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