- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 27, 2002

The executive director of the Virginia state chapter of the national Coastal Conservation Association sent an e-mail concerning our column on March17 about a Chesapeake Bay commercial fishing scofflaw who received a tap on the wrist by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission despite having a record of violations as long as your leg.
"Your article was right on target," wrote the CCA's Richard Welton, who then also mentioned it was about time the media noticed such things. (Welton definitely has not been a regular reader of The Washington Times or he'd have known that we've been going after natural resources violators for many years. The "media" actually have not been asleep quite the contrary.)
Welton continued, "My group, the Coastal Conservation Association has been frustrated by this sort of misconduct by the pro-commercial [VMRC] for years. CCA volunteers are at every VMRC meeting to try and change the way our resources are being managed.
"A year or so ago, a habitual offender came before the commission after 22 violations concerning illegal sales of untagged striped bass, as well as federally protected sturgeon. One of the commissioners remarked that he shouldn't be classified as a habitual offender because the undercover agents didn't write a ticket the first day [he was caught] and allowed him to continue the illegal activity.
"In just the last year, undercover agents worked hard to bring another habitual offender before the marine resources commissioners. The agents had the repeat offender on audio tape telling the undercover officer that they needed to be careful because what the offender was doing was illegal and the authorities were keeping an eye on him. In other words he knew what he was doing was illegal but he was going to try anyway. This offender had previously pleaded guilty in federal court of trafficking in untagged striped bass. The law enforcement officers had a presentation prepared for the VMRC hearing but politics caused the presentation to be canceled at the last minute. The officers made an excellent case but the pro-commercial commissioners only put the offender on probation."
Welton is correct in wondering just who it is the VMRC is trying to protect. He says, "It's certainly not the legal commercial netters [because the] prices they receive for their legal catch is being driven down by illegal activity. And it's certainly not the under-funded law enforcement officers who want the commissioners to make examples of repeat offenders so it can serve as a deterrent.
"What can the public do about this? The obvious solution is to change the makeup of the [pro commercial netting] VMRC. There are eight commissioners appointed by the governor who serve four-year terms. Every June two of them are either reappointed or replaced. The CCA is doing a letter-writing campaign to have the two non-commercial commissioners appointed this June. Seven of eight commissioners have current or past financial ties to the commercial fishing industry. Our goal is to hand-deliver 10,000 signed letters to the governor by mid-April calling for a balanced VMRC.
"Your readers in Northern Virginia should know that their heavily populated area is not currently represented on the commission while the sparsely populated Northern Neck/Middle Peninsula area has four commissioners. State Senator Ticer has agreed to ask the governor to appoint someone from Northern Virginia this June."
Meanwhile, reader Len Mogavero says, "I get a sick feeling in my gut when I hear how the watermen can do what they want and take what they want without consequence. The thing that really bothers me is that they only take, take, take.
"How can I get involved in trying to stop the netters? I see it while I'm out on the Potomac and it is sickening. If enough people would get involved things could change."
For starters, you couldn't do any better than to support your local CCA chapter. In the case of Virginia, Richard Welton's CCA group can be contacted by e-mailing [email protected] Chris Coile heads CCA Maryland; e-mail him at [email protected] Both CCA state groups can point you to a local county chapter you might wish to join.
And before we forget, leading biologist John Odenkirk, who is with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, called to tell us a recent column about tidal water nettings of crappies was only partially correct. We mentioned how crappies can be netted in tidal creeks and rivers of Maryland and Virginia. "Not so," says Odenkirk. "It's against the law in Virginia." Good for the Old Dominion. Now if it only would do something to protect the yellow perch schools.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide