By Denise Sawyer
A new Maryland state-wide operation is targeting fishermen who snatch Rockfish from restricted water in the Atlantic ocean. It is a combined effort by the Coast Guard in Ocean City and other agencies.
Ocean City Coast Guard said poaching has been a problem since the 1980s and it's getting worse.
The rockfish industry is one of the most lucrative fishing businesses in Ocean City, according to Maryland Natural Resources. So saving it may save the local economy. But some fishermen said it's at their expense.
Fishermen cannot lawfully fish for rockfish 3-miles off shore in federally protected water, according to the Coast Guard.
The Coast Guard is on the look out for rockfish poachers.
"This is their season, so we're trying to take advantage," said Ocean City Coast Guard Chief Shane Yonushonis.
Some fishermen believe that law puts them at a disadvantage. Most of the Rockfish have migrated out to restricted water, making fishing tough and money low. The Coast Guard said some fishermen have straddled the limits, fishing inches away from the restricted water.
Yonushonis said poacher won't get far.
"We're on that 3-mile line and we are going to hold that line, and basically target the boats that are on that line or beyond," said Yonushonis.
Just last year, six fishermen were cited off the coast of Ocean City for rockfish violations. Police said a total of 15 rockfish were seized.
Officers said rockfish are given a chance to reproduce.
"That's why we are preventing the three miles out fishing," said Yonushonis. "So the fish can actually thrive. If we didn't have the law, and if we didn't enforce them, then the fishery could just disappear." Video.