The Virginia Marine Police will combat oyster theft by air, land and sea in an intensive effort to crush what has become an epidemic of poaching. The public oyster season opened Oct. 1.
“We mean business. We will vigorously pursue anyone who violates the oyster regulations, and we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law,” said Virginia Marine Police Chief Rick Lauderman. “Stealing oysters from the public oyster grounds, private leased grounds or from oyster sanctuaries in particular will not be tolerated. Oyster poaching in Virginia will stop.”
A number of Marine Police officers have been dedicated to search for oyster violations as their top priorities. An airplane will prowl the skies, patrolling for suspicious activity on both public and privately leased oyster grounds. Other techniques and equipment will be used as well.
And the Virginia Marine Resources Commission comes armed to this fight with a renewed commitment to revoking violators’ commercial fishing licenses and with a new tool: Revocation of all saltwater fishing privileges, as allowed by a new state law that went into effect on July 1. The Marine Police is the commission’s law enforcement division.
In fact, the commission recently adopted new sanction guidelines that call for the revocation of commercial fishing licenses for even a single egregious offense. This is a tougher standard from prior guidelines, which called for a license suspension hearing on a third court conviction of fishery regulations within a calendar year.
On Sept. 24, the commission voted unanimously to revoke the fishing licenses of five commercial oyster harvesters who had pleaded guilty in criminal court to repeatedly harvesting more than their daily allowable bushel limits of oysters. More....