Reeling in Fish Poachers

nina | April 29th, 2011 - 9:00 am

Several maritime agencies are waging high-tech battles with poachers illegally fishing the nation’s waterways.

Poaching is an ongoing problem for the commerical marine fishing industry, which in 2009 sas a $38.4 billion business. 

Poachers regularly target rockfish, salmon, oysters, scallops, lobsters, & turtles.  Some of the devices being installed to stop them include infrared video cameras, Global Positioning System tracking devices and electronic fencing.

Since January 2011, The MARYLAND Natural Resources Police has monitored the Chesapeake Bay region with the best radar detector units and two infrared video cameras placed at confidential locations.

Consumers can be affected in various ways from poaching.  In some cases, low-value fish is mislabeled and sold as high-value fish.  Also, if fishers bring in more than their allowed amount, they can drive down the price for a species.

Without adequate enforcement, those willing to break the law not only potentially harm the resource, but also other hardworking fishermen who abide by the regulations needed to ensure the stocks are sustainable into the future.

In February, Maryland NRP found 12.5 tons of rockfish in illegally anchored gill nets in the Chesapeake Bay.  This discovery prompted the state to close the commercial rockfish fishery from Feb. 4 – Feb. 25.

Because poachers can use radar to see police vessels coming, police are becoming more sophisticated in their enforcement approach.

Later this year, Maryland NRP will launch a feature called “geo-fencing” – the state will be able to draw electronic fences around oyster sanctuaries, which will trigger an alarm when vessels break the virtual barrier.

Other state enforcement efforts:
Washington Sate, law enforcement obtains court orders to place GPS tracking devices on boats suspected of poaching activity.

South Florida, NRP use high-powered spotting scopes to zoom in on poachers.  This has been highly effective in catching poachers robbing lobster traps.

Off the coast of Southern California, investigators first build a case against an offender, then send in a covert dive team to catch a violation in progress.

Source:  www.usatoday.com, 3/9/11

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