DNR delays decision on reopening of commercial gill net season

February 18, 2011|By Candus Thomson, The Baltimore Sun

The Department of Natural Resources has delayed a decision on reopening the commercial gill net season in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Top agency officials met Friday to review the investigation into the eight poaching incidents that began in late January and forced the closure of the season on Feb. 4. They will take the issue up again next week, said DNR spokesman Josh Davidsburg.

But time is running out on the commercial season, which is set to close at the end of the month and not reopen until December.

State officials are concerned that they don't know if poaching has been curbed and if their monitoring system is adequate to ensure Maryland doesn't exceed its monthly quota.

Illegal nets submerged in the waters around Kent Island have netted 12.6 tons of striped bass, also known as rockfish. Subtracting those fish plus legally harvested fish from the quota leaves 200,000 pounds for the rest of February.

Watermen have urged the state to lift the ban, but recreational anglers and conservation groups have recommended that the season remain closed until safeguards are in place.

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