Analysis of Marine Police Citations and Judicial Decisions for Illegal Harvesting of Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea Virginica, Gmelin 1791) in the Maryland Portion of the Chesapeake Bay, United States, from 1959 to 2010
Illegal harvesting of oysters is a concern for a broad range of stakeholders in the Chesapeake Bay region, including natural resource managers, oyster growers, fishermen, environmentalists, and public health advocates. This study analyzed oyster harvest citations issued by marine police in Maryland (n ¼ 5,282 citations) from 1959 to 2010 as well as judicial decisions and fines resulting from these citations. Nearly three quarters of citations (73.9%) were issued for harvesting undersized or unculled oysters, or exceeding the daily catch limit. The citation rate per year was inversely proportional to the number of person-days worked. Of those individuals with a citation, 45% received citations on multiple days; ca. 10% of individuals had 5 days or more with at least 1 citation. Citations and harvests after 1994 were mapped using GIS. Eighty-two percent of court cases for oyster citations resulted in guilty verdicts. The distribution of court cases by county and verdict are presented. During the past decade (2000 to 2009), Maryland courts issued fines totaling $150,237 (mean fine, $179).
Implications of our findings for oyster ecology and natural resource management in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay are discussed.
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