Stripers forever report on Chesapeake illegal Gill Netting
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Courtesy of Stripers forever
Editors note: Stripers Forever .org is an organization dedicated to making the Striped Bass exclusively a game fish. A position that Stripers 24-7 endorses.
Stripers Forever - pasted in below is Keith Walters news column from MD. The first part deals with confiscated illegal gill nets in Chesapeake Bay. I have been monitoring the MD gill net catch statistics from the Bay, and despite the complaints of poor striper fishing this fall, the commercial gill net quota is nearly filled for 2004. When you read Keith's piece below ask yourself how many more of these nets they didn't find, and if the catch from all these nets is reported legally -especially if the officials responsible go to court and testify on behalf of the criminals. The second half of the story deals with a fishing for big stripers off the Outerbanks. The blame here is spread between private boats and charter boats fishing illegally in the EEZ, and high grading (throwing away the smaller ones to keep the big ones when a firm number of fish is allowed) by the commercial netters. Why, you might ask yourself would making the striper a gamefish stop the disgraceful recreational fishery there that is killing all those cows illegally in the EEZ? The answer is that virtually none of our members, nor other true recreational anglers are in favor of this practice. The entire striped bass management scheme is essentially commercially motivated. The two fish at 28 inches is an unwanted sop that commercially oriented state directors have shoved down the throats of their recreational fishermen as a smoke screen for giving bloated quotas to commercial interests. A perfect example is last year's 43% coastal increase and the unwanted recreational increase to two fish over 28 in MA. How many of those do you think get sold on the black market? The problem is that commercial fishing doesn't just kill fish, it creates a management mentality based around maximum harvest rather than economic and social values achieved by a quality fishery. If commercial fishing for stripers were eliminated, we are confident that many of these ridiculous and largely unwanted excesses would be dropped from the management plan. The recreational community really doesn't want them, and there would no longer be a commercial voice to satisfy. From Keith Walters: UP THE CREEK FRIDAY 3-5-04 "We picked up 11 illegal nets yesterday," a Natural Resources Police (NRP) officer told me recently. None of the nets had the required buoys marked with the fisherman's license number, it could be concluded the nets were illegal, or had been abandoned. Some people call these freed, or lost, gill nets "Ghost Nets." They have been mostly previously-illegal monofilament that is more deadly than the old nylon material, and the now-legal "multi-filament" (two strands make it legal now) material has an estimated 50-plus year life; it keeps catching and killing for years. This change from the old nylon net to the deadly twin-strand mono sometimes called "crystal" due to its clarity in the water, was actively supported by Pete Jensen in his previous incarnation as Fisheries Director. After the officer's net confiscation, some people indicated an interest in buying the illegal nets (back?). The NRP cop I'll call Officer X for good reasons, couldn't believe the economics of that situation. If someone admitted ownership, the fine could be as low as $150 to get back a net costing $300 or so. (Judges often return net to poachers after they pay their fines, I was told by another officer at headquarters). "Bidness-wise" that chap better get a job on land; he has no future as a striper-poacher. Officer X saw a broken balloon floating on the surface and motored over to it, thinking it might be a marker like the small corks or tiny floats poachers use to mark their nets. The balloon was free floating, but X looked down into the water and saw an unmarked gill net. He and his partner picked it up, then found another, and another, etc., and confiscated them, too. After they pulled in several more nets, they went back to the place they found the first one; X had marked it on his GPS. They circled around with grappling hooks and - guess what? - more unbuoyed, unmarked gill net. Some nets were free-floating; others had anchors. They soon had so much net in the boat they had to proceed to shore slowly so they wouldn't swamp their small boat. As we talked, X admitted the NRP has had trouble with state officials getting poachers off after the officers have made a good case, "Even testified AGAINST us," another X told me. That is very demoralizing. Your own bosses testify against you in court after you've worked hard, sometimes undercover, to make a case. "We are getting a lot of illegal net," a supervisor told me, "compared with past years, it's about the same yardage. They [poachers} are not getting any more honest as time goes by." No wonder so many NRP officers support the twin bills in the Maryland Legislature that would meld the NRP and Park Rangers into the Maryland State Police - to get the politics out. Will the NRP ever get free of the DNR crook-protectors? I doubt it. Government agencies rarely give up a piece of their turf without a fight.
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