In the first action of its kind this year, Maryland Natural Resources Police seized about 10 bushels of illegal small crabs from a North Carolina truck yesterday near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, Kirby Murphy, 28, of Washington, N.C., was issued 34 citations, one for each bushel in which police found more than 10 undersized crabs.
The citations carry fines of $6,260, said John Verrico, spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources.
In Maryland, possession of more than 10 undersized crabs -- those whose shell measures less than 5 inches from tip to tip -- per bushel is illegal.
Yesterday, nearly 120 dozen small crabs were seized from 600 bushels.
Police Sgt. John Davis said police charged the driver because he is the one who brought the crabs into Maryland.
If he does not pay the fines, he will have a trial in September in District Court in Glen Burnie. If convicted there, he could be fined up to $17,340, Sergeant Davis said.
"Usually the driver will go back and tell the truck's owner what happened, and the owner will go to the suppliers and say, 'Hey, you had this many bushels on the truck, and they received this amount in fines.' The shipper would expect the suppliers to pay their share of the fines," Sergeant Davis said.
Police donated the illegal crabs to the Patterson Park Emergency Food Center in Baltimore. DNR's policy is to give seized food to nonprofit organizations.
"Since they were refrigerated, it's not practical to put them back in the water because they will die," Sergeant Davis said.
Police received a tip Saturday that a tractor-trailer was scheduled to meet distributors at the parking lot of Cancun Cantina's, a country-western nightclub in the 7500 block of Old Telegraph Road in Harmans.
At 5:30 a.m., four officers were waiting for the truck, Sergeant Davis said.
Three hours later, the tractor-trailer, owned by Gene A. Williamson and Son Transfer Inc. of Aurora, N.C., pulled into the parking lot.
Sergeant Davis said the officers approached the driver after he started to unload the crabs.
They donned orange gloves and picked through 600 bushels of hard and soft, male and female crabs, measuring them.
While police sorted through the crabs, eight distributors from Eldersburg, Baltimore, Annapolis and the Eastern Shore waited five hours.
John Keuch said his Carolina Supply Co. of Severna Park had three trucks to pick up the more than 300 bushels he had ordered. He arrived expecting to get crabs and leave by 9 a.m., but waited until after 2 p.m. Nevertheless, he praised police.
His company, which distributes crabs throughout Baltimore and Annapolis, lost about 7 bushels in the seizure. Crabs sell for approximately $40 a bushel wholesale, he said.
"Because it's a holiday weekend, crabbers try to get away with it," Mr. Keuch said.
"I didn't know what was on the truck. Around July Fourth, suppliers think they can put anything on the truck," said Mr. Murphy, the truck driver. "I've been through some of this before, but not quite this big."