AG Gansler Secures Conviction in Striped Bass Overfishing Case
Kent County waterman used improperly transferred allocations, exceeded limits
Baltimore, MD ( Aug. 20, 2013) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that Donald Charles Pierce, 64, of Rock Hall, pleaded guilty to two counts of exceeding daily fishing limits on striped bass as a commercial waterman. Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Bowman ordered Pierce to pay a $4,000 fine to the Natural Resources Fisheries Research and Development Fund. Additionally, Mr. Pierce will have his entire fishing license suspended for 30 days and will have his license specifically for striped bass fishing suspended for one year.
"Commercial fishing is a vital industry in Maryland, and watermen must abide by a strict set of laws that ensure fairness and the long-term health of the striped bass harvest," said Attorney General Gansler. "Everyone has to play by the same rules to protect this important species from the threat of overfishing."
After receiving information that Pierce had been using fishing licenses that did not belong to him during the striped bass season in January and February of 2011, Maryland Natural Resources Police began an investigation. Striped bass regulations from 2011 allowed Pierce to catch the daily legal limit of 300 pounds per striped bass allocation. There was also a maximum permitted allotment for total catch per boat of 1,400 pounds per day. The defendant used a check station at Ford's Seafood in Rock Hall for his striped bass catch; records were obtained from that facility, as well as from the filings made to the Department of Natural Resources.
The investigation determined that Shirlyn Edwards had given Pierce her deceased husband's striped bass allocation to use and that Nevitte Ford, owner of Ford's Seafood, had given the defendant his striped bass allocation to use. Neither of these striped bass allocations were properly transferred to Pierce, who himself already held the maximum number of permits per person of four striped bass allocations.
Records from Ford's Seafood and conversation with witnesses revealed that on February 1, 2011, the defendant checked in 1,101 pounds of striped bass under his allocations, as well as 313 pounds under the deceased Mr. Edwards' allocation and 324 pounds under the allocation of Mr. Ford. Additionally, Mr. Allen Sutton was fishing on the defendant's boat that day and checked in 690 pounds of striped bass under his own two allocations. Thus a total of eight allocations, four over the maximum allowed, checked in striped bass from Pierce's boat on that date. The checked striped bass from the defendant's boat totaled 2,428 pounds - 45 percent over the legal limit.
On February 25, 2013, Pierce checked in 1,389 pounds of striped bass under his allocations, as well as 245 pounds under the deceased Mr. Edwards' allocation. Mr. Sutton was again fishing on the defendant's boat that day and checked in 670 pounds of striped bass under his own allocations. The total striped bass checked in from the defendant's boat with 7 allocations was 2,307 pounds, 36 percent over the legal limit.
Striped bass fisheries are managed on a coast-wide level by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), which is comprised of 15 member states from Maine to Florida. The harvest of striped bass is managed according to an ASMFC fishery management plan to ensure the sustained health of the coastal population and its dependent fisheries. The illegal taking of striped bass in any jurisdiction along the Atlantic coast threatens the long-term health of this highly-valued coastal migratory fish.
In announcing the conviction, Attorney General Gansler thanked Michelle Barnes, Assistant Attorney General for the Environmental Crimes Unit, as well as the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Police for their work on this case.