- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

"Maryland Natural Resources Police charge 87 Eastern Shore residents with more than 1,100 commercial fishing violations." So began a report last week about NRP investigators uncovering the concealment of nearly $500,000 of illegal earnings and the juggling of records to hide the fact that 250,000 pounds of rockfish were illegally netted.
Hmmm.
Could it be that the lads with the badges and the guns missed an important point in their lengthy investigation? After all, the watermen who drag nets or stake them out along likely striped bass travel routes say that the fish have been eating up so many crabs that the blue-claws are in short supply. Heck, a poor commercial crabber now is forced to charge $120 a bushel for the tasty crustaceans. Is there a possibility however remote that they netted those rockfish only to help save the crabs?
We are constantly reminded that the fish netters are the salt of the earth, the pillars of the community, and that they only follow an old traditional Maryland way of earning a living. So maybe some of them decided to be even more loved than they are now by saving the beleaguered Chesapeake Bay crabs.
Such noble knights of the water. Let us salute them.
At any rate, top-flight undercover officers for the NRP worked for 10 months to get the goods on 87 Eastern Shore residents and then charged them with 1,164 criminal and fishing violations, including falsifying state documents.
Wow!
Apparently, the investigation began during last year's commercial striped bass (rockfish) fishing season after the NRP received tips that all manner of skullduggery was taking place. Rockfish were illegally netted, and records were altered to make it appear that the illegal fish were actually taken under another licensee's allocation.
The NRP chief, Col. John W. Rhoads, who some years ago retired as the chief of the Prince George's County Police, doesn't believe the overall commercial rockfish allocation was exceeded as a result of the illegal netting, but he said, "The defendants in effect took money out of the pockets of law-abiding watermen."
Court dates now will be set for several seafood wholesalers in and around Cambridge and a bunch of Dorchester County residents who apparently believe that laws are written by people who really don't understand much about how to save the Chesapeake Bay's bounty.
You see, when rockfish eat too many crabs something they apparently have been doing only for a couple of years in tens of thousands of years of existence they need to be taught a lesson. That lesson, friends, is that those dastardly, crab-eating fish will be trapped in a net, put on ice, later to be sold in a store.
Along the way, any crab that swims into Dorchester County waters now can do so without being afraid of hungry rockfish. Then, if all goes right, other watermen will be able to trap the crabs, put them into cold storage, later to be sold in a store or restaurant.
See how easy it is to fix the Chesapeake Bay's problems?
Here we go again It was tried more than 12 years ago, but the attempt went nowhere. Now, however, it appears the National Park Service again has decided that it wants to stop leasing duck hunting blind sites in Prince George's County's Piscataway Creek along the national park shoreline where no one ever has been threatened by errant shot or anything else during duck hunting season.
Word has it that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which worked with the NPS as far as such blind sites were concerned, will not question the decision to stop the duck hunting. One spokesman who asks for anonymity says there's no sense in asking the DNR to help hunters, what with a currently perceived anti-hunting climate within the DNR.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, Maryland Republican, is on some kind of National Park Service committee. Why not let him know how you feel about this?
What a field guide! The National Audubon Society's "Field Guides to Wildflowers Eastern Region and Western Region" are an endless source of educational entertainment. The thick and richly illustrated (up to 1,000 photos in each) field guides might fit in a walking coat's pocket, but it had better be cut of generous cloth.
Thanks to the Eastern Region wildflowers guide, I am learning the names of every little woodland and roadside ditch flower in our neighborhood. My work will never end, and I'll love every moment of it. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Look for it in your book store, and if it doesn't have it, order it.

E-mail: muelle@twtmail.com.

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