TILGHMAN ISLAND,Md.- The Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition has already made a name for itself by filing a lawsuit against the Maryland Department of Natural Resources over the menhaden catch quotas. On Thursday, the group continued to fight back, this time against striped bass regulations.
The DNR plans to implement an ITQ quota system in January 2014, which means each waterman will have a personal quota, based off a 10-year catch history. Watermen like John Motovidlak say that the ITQ system will put him and others like him out of business.
"I usually catch between 22,000 and 25,000 pounds of fish, and they have cut me back to 7,500 pounds. And I've got three other people that fish with me that depend on me to make them a living and and I'm gonna have to let them go because I'm not going to be able to do it myself for that." said Motovidlak.
Capt. Rob Newberry, spokesperson for the Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition, said his group is ready to fight for the watermen.
"We're fully prepared as a coalition to discuss this issue with the DNR. If they don't want to talk about it, then they'll talk about it when we take them to court. We did it with the Menhaden, we're fully prepared to do it with the rockfish, too," said Newberry.
Thursday the group met with representatives from the DNR at a meeting to discuss the new regulations. Newberry says his goal, and the goal of the group was to let the DNR know how much the ITQ would hurt the watermen.
"It's not mandated by the federal government, we don't have to take it, we don't want it, the industry doesn't support it, but DNR is ramrodding us on it," Newberry said.
The DNR decided to take up the new regulations, after the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission said states needed to keep better track of how many fish were tagged. The organization also maintains that this will also make the fishery safer and less stressful.
In an interview with WBOC in July, a spokesperson for the DNR said, "They don't have to worry that someone is going to catch their fish if they are in the individual quota system. They can wait until the market price is what they need it to be in order to maximize their economic benefit."