Fishing enforcement faulted

Delegate sees repeat arrests as sign court is lax on penalizing offenders

December 11, 2008|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,candy.thomson@baltsun.com

A waterman with a long list of convictions on the Eastern Shore for poaching fish, crabs and oysters from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries is scheduled to stand trial tomorrow in St. Mary's County on charges that he harvested undersized oysters from the Patuxent River.

The charges against Joseph Janda Jr. in October touched off a flurry of protests from recreational anglers to the prosecutor and calls by a Baltimore County lawmaker for tougher penalties on repeat offenders.

Natural Resources Police say Janda, 22, of Wittman, was oystering without a commercial license when they stopped his boat on the Patuxent River across from Solomons to check his catch. Officers say 42 percent of the oysters in one bushel and 32 percent in another bushel were undersized.

During the past six years, Janda has been taken to District Court in Talbot, Dorchester and Somerset counties by the NRP on 36 offenses, ranging from catching undersized crabs to dredging for oysters in a restricted area to working on a suspended license.

Members of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland have sent St. Mary's County State's Attorney Richard Fritz more than 125 letters and e-mails demanding that the prosecutor push for the toughest penalties possible.

Del. Dan K. Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat, has written to the Department of Natural Resources, asking why Janda, a repeat offender, has been allowed to continue fishing.

Gina Hunt, DNR deputy fisheries director, said that while regulations have been tightened, District Court judges have been reluctant to impose penalties.

Hunt said that the DNR has begun administrative action to suspend Janda's license for the second time. But Morhaim believes that may not stop people from fishing even after their licenses are yanked.

"This may be an area where we have to toughen things up," Morhaim said in a telephone interview. "I will be asking the agency and leadership of Environmental Matters if they shouldn't be planning action for the next [General Assembly] session. If DNR needs more authority, then maybe it's time to do that."

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