Lawsuit By Watermen Against Maryland DNR Comes to an End - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Lawsuit By Watermen Against Maryland DNR Comes to an End

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CAMBRIDGE, Md.- It's been a long road for Capt. Boo Powley, chairman of the Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition, a group that filed a lawsuit against the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

You may remember back in October, the coalition's lawsuit claimed the state had unfairly, and with no scientific evidence, cut the quotas on the menhaden fishery at the request of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.  They say that Virginia, which houses the company "Omega" that catches the fish in bulk, got 80 percent of the Atlantic quota, and Maryland only received 1.3 percent.

Wednesday's trial in itself was a ten and a half hour long ordeal for Powley, but in the end, he wasn't even able to argue his point.

"The merits of the case weren't even heard.  There was no professional testimony by any scientist on how many menhaden are in the bay.  We just lost on a technicality.  It's hard to lose because paperwork wasn't filed soon enough." said Powley.

The assistant attorneys general representing the DNR successfully argued that they were not given enough time to question the watermen's witnesses ahead of time.  The judge dismissed the coalition's witnesses as a result, and once they had rested their case, the DNR's lawyers asked for judgement.  The judge ruled in the favor of the DNR, meaning the quotas will stay as is.

WBOC reached out to the DNR for comment. Secretary Joe Gill sent the following statement:

"We are very pleased by yesterday’s (Wednesday's) ruling, which confirmed DNR’s authority to manage Atlantic menhaden by regulation to comply with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.  States from Maine to Florida have a shared interest in the conservation and management of Atlantic menhaden, and implemented coordinated management measures in 2013 to boost populations and benefit surrounding ecosystems. Widely known as the most important fish in the sea, menhaden are a key source of food for a variety of fish, bird and marine mammals.  The decision supports the tireless effort and professionalism of our team, and their commitment to using the best science available in managing Maryland’s natural and living resources to the greatest benefit of all citizens and visitors.

Going forward, we remain committed to fulfilling the Commission’s Atlantic menhaden plan that takes into consideration our diverse stakeholder perspectives and seeks to mitigate the socio-economic impacts to Maryland fishermen." said Gill

But Powley has had enough.

"I'm 61, I'll be 62 next year.  I'm thinking about retiring, letting four people go off my boat, and close it all and sell everything I've got and move out of this state because I'm ashamed to be here." said Powley

But he says the Harvesters Land and Sea are already turning their attention to another fight.  The Little Choptank oyster project.
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