Illegal Oyster Harvesting In Chesapeake Bay
GPS Trackers Could Monitor Fishing Boat Activity
Extreme circumstances require extreme measures, and that is why many biologists, state agencies and nature conservationists are looking into creating legislation that would require all commercial fishing boats operating in Maryland to be equipped with GPS tracking systems. The reason why so many people in Maryland are proponents of a plan to use satellite tracking to observe the movements of fishing boats is because of the significant increase in illegal harvesting of oysters in areas that are deemed sanctuaries around the Chesapeake Bay.
When the oyster populations being monitored took a worrisome crash, legislators began taking the appropriate and necessary steps to increase oyster sustainability. The end result has been spending upwards of 50 million dollars since 1994, but that has done very little as many environmental experts estimate that oyster populations are somewhere around 1% of historical population numbers. According to a hatchery expert working for the Horn Point Laboratory over 80% of the oyster beds being planted in sanctuaries designed to help oyster populations are being illegally harvested by fishing boats. When the oyster hatchery director working for the Horn Point Laboratory was asked about the “poaching” of oysters he insisted that what some of the fishing boats are doing is much worse than poaching because in actuality they are stealing from everybody who has a interest in sustaining oyster populations in the region.
The illegal oyster harvesting is not only a problem for oyster populations, but also a financial one, as it is estimated $1.5 million dollars is spent annually in the production of spat at the Horn Point Laboratory. The funds come from the Department of Natural Resources, University of Maryland and a basket of other donors that include preservation organizations.
Protecting and safeguarding oyster populations is simply becoming more and more difficult as fishing boats routinely patrol sanctuaries in an effort to poach the protected oyster beds. Not to mention, the small fines combined with almost a non-existent police presence in the protected areas simply compounds the challenges facing those making every attempt to help oyster populations. Since 2008 Natural Resources Police have issued slightly over 400 citations for oyster fishing crimes, but that is only a drop in the bucket compared to the number of fishing boats and fishermen actually illegally fishing in the protected sanctuaries.
GPS Trackers In Marine
One possible solution to the problem of illegal oyster harvesting that many people inside the Department of Natural Resources are now taking a serious look at is the use of GPS tracking systems to monitor Maryland commercial fishing boats. Placing more uniformed officers on the water to patrol the areas delegated as oyster sanctuaries would not be a feasible option from a monetary standpoint, especially considering the cutbacks in government spending due to the economic struggles. However, the creation of state legislation requiring commercial fishing boats operating in Maryland to use marine vehicle tracking technology could provide a way for authorities to determine whether a fishing boat is traveling and/or fishing in areas that are off-limits. According to a fleet management specialist for Southern California GPS company Tracking System Direct, “If legislators agree that the best solution to maintaining oyster populations is through the use of GPS tracking systems to monitor commercial fishing boats operating in Maryland, Natural Resources Police could then set geo-fences around all the sanctuaries. Therefore, if any boat enters or exits those oyster sanctuaries, the personal GPS tracking system will transmit and alert to notify local authorities. The data would be sent in real-time via email or text message, and it is one of the most popular features of our live tracking solutions such as the SilverCloud.”
Although any measure that would monitor the movements of water-men could meet some resistance, most honest fishermen in the area would support any plan to increase oyster populations because more oysters means more business in the long run.