State to continue crab restrictions
Intent on restoring blue crabs to sustainable levels in the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia regulators Tuesday continued catch restrictions for the 2009 season but eased many previous or proposed limits.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission also continued a ban on the winter dredge, a century-old practice that rakes up pregnant hibernating crabs and results in kill rates of 25 percent to 50 percent of the catch, according to biologists. The ban will idle 53 boats.
The commission generally eased off restrictions or planned limits after a census of the Bay’s crab population that recorded the highest levels since 1993. The Bay’s spawning-age population was put at 223 million after the winter count.
Closure of the season 10 days earlier, starting Nov. 21. The earlier closing, however, is an improvement on the 2007 season, which the commission ordered closed one month earlier. Maryland’s 2009 season ends on Nov. 10.
Continuation of a 15 percent reduction in crab pots. The 15 percent reduction was in effect last season, and was to increase to 30 percent this season.
Reinstating five-pot limit for recreational crabbers.
The regulations approved two months after the season opened are intended to allow the blue crab population to grow and provide a living to Virginia’s ever-shrinking number of watermen. Approximately 700 people actively work as watermen.
Crab stocks are estimated to have declined 70 percent in the Chesapeake since the early 1990s because of overfishing, pollution and habitat loss. Last year, the U.S. Commerce Department declared the crab fishery a federal disaster.
Virginia and Maryland are splitting $20 million in disaster aid approved by Congress.
While cautious about banking on the 223 million crab number, commission members said the limits instituted by Maryland and Virginia could be starting to pay dividends.
Navy chaplain pleads guilty to adultery
A Navy chaplain has pleaded guilty to charges of adultery and fraternization and is scheduled to stand trial on rape and other charges.
Lt. Shane Dillman entered the pleas Tuesday at a court-martial at the Norfolk Naval Station. He is to go on trial Wednesday on the rape charge, which stems from an incident in 2007.
Lt. Dillman had been assigned to the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. He was charged in January 2008 with a range of offenses dating back to 2005, including soliciting female sailors for sexual encounters, having sex with a woman who was not his wife, and engaging in “unduly familiar” relationships with junior enlisted women.
Lt. Dillman won awards for ministering to wounded troops at Bethesda Naval Medical Center on a previous assignment.
Weekend traffic least deadly in 10 years
Authorities say traffic fatalities on Virginia highways over Memorial Day weekend were the lowest in at least a decade.
As of noon Monday, Virginia State Police said, five people had died in five crashes over the weekend. Last year, 18 people died in 14 crashes over the same period - the highest toll in 10 years.
Over the past decade, an average of 13 people died each Memorial Day weekend.
Four of the five people killed over the weekend were not wearing safety belts. Alcohol was a factor in at least one of the fatal crashes.
State Police responded to 653 crashes statewide. They also cited more than 10,000 speeders and 3,000 reckless drivers, arrested 175 impaired drivers and issued more than 1,000 safety belt and 340 child safety seat violations.
Loudoun confirms case of swine flu
Loudoun County Health Department says the first case of swine flu has been confirmed in the county.
Health officials said late Tuesday that the patient is a male under age 18 who has fully recovered and did not need to be hospitalized.
Health Department Director Dr. David Goodfriend said the state does not provide patients’ ages or where they live.
He said the patient helped minimize the spread of the infection by voluntarily isolating himself at home while ill.
According to the Virginia Health Department’s Web site, as of Tuesday there were 26 confirmed cases of swine flu in the state.
Accountant admits country club theft
A second man has pleaded guilty in a scheme to steal nearly $2 million from the Silver Spring country club where he worked.
Akinyeme Bamisaiye, 41, pleaded guilty Tuesday to mail fraud and money laundering. The Clarksville resident served as the accountant and financial manager for the Argyle Country Club. The club’s former general manager, Sajjad Mahar, pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme earlier this month.
Prosecutors say the pair created fake employees, kept former workers on the payroll and put others on the payroll who provided them with personal services. Paychecks for these “ghost employees” went to their personal accounts.
Both men are scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on Oct. 19.
From wire dispatches and staff reports.