MARUMSCO — Maryland Natural Resources police officers charged two Somerset County watermen with illegally harvesting oysters from a state sanctuary.
Michael David Sterling, 39, of Princess Anne and William Ryan Arndt, 28, of Crisfield are accused of entering the Kitts Creek Oyster Sanctuary in Pocomoke Sound at about noon last Thursday and harvesting eight bushels of oysters.
The sanctuary, approximately 1,180 acres, was set aside in 2001 to allow oysters to live longer, spawn without harvest pressure and develop a natural resistance to disease over time.
As the officers prepared to intercept the vessel at the public ramp on Rumbly Point Road, Sterling is accused of fleeing in the boat, leaving Arndt behind.
Arndt was charged with harvesting oysters more than 150 feet inside a sanctuary and released.
Sterling turned himself in later in the day, but did not have the oysters with him. He was charged with harvesting oysters more than 150 feet inside a sanctuary, harvesting oysters less than 150 feet inside a sanctuary, possession of untagged oysters, failing to obey a police officer and eluding police.
A helicopter from the Maryland State Police aviation unit conducted a search for the oysters and the investigation is continuing.
Arndt and Sterling must appear in Somerset District Court on July 8. If found guilty, Arndt could be fined a maximum of $3,000. Sterling faces maximum fines totaling more than $4,500 and a possible one year in jail.
In addition to criminal penalties, in some cases the department has the authority to impose administrative penalties, including license suspensions and permanent revocations.