Police officers acting on a tip stopped a tractor-trailer Wednesday night on westbound Route 50 in Easton that authorities said was filled with 188 bushels of oysters, many of them undersized, reports WJZ TV.
Maryland Natural Resources Police say the truck driver, Rhoderick Newman, 66, of Tappahannock, Va., was charged with attempting to transport undersized oysters out of state and possession of undersized and unculled oysters. The TV station says the truck is owned by Cowart Seafood Corp. of Lottsburg, Va.
The maximum fine for the offense is $1,000 per bushel, says the Maryland Natural Resources website. Authorities said that 187 bushels of the oysters were ruled illegal.
“There is no excuse for any amount of oyster poaching, let alone what happened here. A blatant disregard for our fishery is a slap in the face to responsible watermen, and all Marylanders,” said DNR Secretary Joseph P. Gill on the state website.
Working by the light of their vehicle headlights, 17 officers and cadets measured every oyster, an operation that lasted more than six hours, authorities said. All but one of the bushels contained oysters below the legal minimum of three inches.
The tractor-trailer load represents the daily limit of 16 oystermen power dredging and is worth more than $8,000, according to the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service.
About 50 bushels of undersized oysters were separated from the legal cargo and returned to an Eastern Shore oyster sanctuary, the state website says.
This is the halfway point of Maryland’s six-month oyster harvesting season. Since the start of the season in October, NRP has been conducting saturation patrols by boat and aerial surveillance from Maryland State Police helicopters with long-range cameras, the state website says.