Buddy Harrison charged with illegal possession of 7 rockfish

November 18, 1992|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Staff Writer

Levin F. "Buddy" Harrison 3rd, Eastern Shore entrepreneur and fishing guide for the prominent, has been charged with illegally possessing seven rockfish out of season.

Mr. Harrison, 58, was arrested last Friday by Maryland Natural Resources Police on Tilghman Island, where his family operates an inn and restaurant, a charter fishing fleet and a wholesale seafood business. The Harrison family also is part owner of a hotel and restaurant in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Mr. Harrison was charged with having seven rockfish at a time when neither recreational fishermen nor charter boat parties were allowed to catch them, said Robert Gould, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources. Under a complicated set of fishing regulations intended to protect the species from being overfished, charter boats were allowed to catch rockfish only on weekends this month. The charter season ended last Sunday, while recreational fishing ended Nov. 7. Mr. Harrison said he has been wrongly accused, contending that the fish were bought by his employees from a commercial fisherman. (Under state rules, commercial fishermen were allowed to net rockfish through Friday.)

Mr. Harrison acknowledged that the fish, found by natural resources police on one of his seafood trucks, had not been tagged, as required by law, to show they had been legally caught. He blamed the incident on the "sloppy" actions of employees at his seafood business, which he said sells "tons" of fish and oysters to restaurants and markets in Baltimore and Washington.

Mr. Gould would not discuss details of Mr. Harrison's arrest, other than to said police believe the fish were caught on a charter boat trip.

Mr. Harrison, who serves on a state board advising how to regulate fishing for rockfish, is a friend of Gov. William Donald Schaefer and has taken many prominent officials fishing, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Dr. Torrey C. Brown, the state's natural resources secretary.

But Mr. Harrison complained that the state has been watching him all year long and that natural resources police raided his seafood business about a month ago. Police seized the firm's records to investigate his rockfish shipments, he said, then later returned the records with apologies.

Mr. Gould said the raid was not related to Mr. Harrison's arrest.

Mr. Harrison said that, given the recent abundance of rockfish in the Chesapeake Bay, "a few rockfish in a box" were "relatively insignificant."

"We have so many they're eating all the crabs," he said.

The fish, which spawn in the bay and then migrate to the ocean, continue to be protected by strict catch limits. Mr. Harrison complained that those rules prevent fishermen in Maryland from catching their fair share of rockfish.

A trial has been set Dec. 18 in Talbot County District Court.

If convicted, Mr. Harrison would face fines of up to $1,500 per fish, and his charter fishing license could be revoked, said Mr. Gould. Any equipment used to catch or keep the fish , including boats or trucks, also could be confiscated.

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