By Scott Dance
Two watermen were fined nearly $1,500 for oyster poaching on the Eastern Shore, the first conviction stemming from a network of radar and cameras the state launched in 2010 to detect illegal seafood harvesting.
Brothers William and Irving Catlin, both of Westover in Somerset County, were fined $1,000 and $450, respectively, after state Natural Resources Police caught them with seven bushels of oysters Nov. 25, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's office said Friday.
A police officer detected the watermen's boat in an oyster sanctuary area near Deal Island and monitored it as he responded to their location, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The officer noticed the boat moving in a circular motion, suggesting it might be dredging for oysters.
When the officer stopped the boat as it left the sanctuary area, he found Irving Catlin culling oysters, with more on board, and the dredge still in the water.
The radar system is part of the Maryland Law Enforcement Information Network, established in 2010. The oyster season that began in October and ends March 31 was the first full season since the network began monitoring the perimeter of sensitive aquatic habitats such as sanctuaries, officials said.
The monitoring was added as part of a state plan to restore the Chesapeake Bay's oyster population.
Appearing before Somerset County District Judge Paula Price, the watermen said it was sometimes difficult to ensure they are dredging outside protected areas, natural resources officials said.