AG Gansler: First-Ever Natural Resources Charges Utilizing New Radar System Produces Conviction for Illegal Oyster Harvesting
Somerset County brothers caught taking shellfish from state sanctuary
Baltimore, MD (March 21, 2014) - Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced today that William Catlin and his brother, Irving Catlin, both of Westover, have been convicted in the first case ever charged under the use of the Maryland Law Enforcement Information Network (MLEIN) radar system. Both defendants were found guilty of unlawfully harvesting oysters from a state sanctuary. Somerset County District Court Judge Paula Price ordered William Catlin to pay a $1,000 fine and Irving Catlin to pay a $450 fine.
"This radar system is helping us enforce the law and protect the Chesapeake Bay for legitimate commercial and recreational uses," said Attorney General Gansler. "We are committed to improving the Bay and shellfish sanctuaries are an important part of that effort."
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, "Sanctuaries are areas where the wild harvest of oysters, and both oysters and clams in previously established sanctuaries, is prohibited... They often contain oyster restoration projects to help enhance native oyster populations for their environmental benefits."
The MLEIN system consists of radar and cameras used throughout the Chesapeake Bay for homeland security, to monitor vessel activity and to assist first responders. It was established in 2010 and three years later, Maryland became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to put it to work protecting natural resources. MLEIN "draws" an electronic fence around sensitive areas, such as oyster sanctuaries. When the "fence" is tripped by a vessel that enters the area, Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) can monitor the vessel in real time from their laptop computers.
According to the investigation, an NRP officer assigned to Somerset County on November 25, 2013, was monitoring activities in the area of the Deal Island radar system on his computer. He spotted what appeared to be an oyster dredging vessel inside the sanctuary in Tangier Sound. The officer was able to monitor the movements of the vessel while responding to the location. The work boat, captained by William Catlin, was identified by the officer as the boat seen on MLEIN. The officer watched the boat leaving the sanctuary area and stopped the vessel. Upon finding active oyster culling being done by Irving Catlin, the officer ordered the men to return the seven bushels of oysters found on board to the sanctuary and issued the citation charges for the violation.
Attorney General Gansler's Environmental Crimes Unit handled the prosecution at the request of the Natural Resources Police. In making the announcement, Attorney General Gansler thanked Assistant Attorney General Michelle Barnes, NRP Officer John Bromley and DNR Program Manager Timothy Bowman for their work on the case.