Commercial fishermen may soon be required to utilize GPS tracking devices on their boats, thanks to a new program instituted by the MD Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service. Currently it is voluntary but that could change in the future.
The changes come after the MD Natural Resources Police found nets placed illegally in Chesapeake Bay containing over 13 tons of striped bass, otherwise known as rockfish. This led to an early end to the rockfish season — and warrants issued to poachers. There have been no arrests made in the case as of yet.
How will these tracking devices aid authorities in stopping poachers? The agency will install the devices on a small amount of vessels at first, until they determine which type of device is best. The agency will then be able to see boats that may be in restricted areas, or when people are fishing during a no-fish season.
Officials are not expecting fishermen to be happy about the requirement. “I think that watermen in general have some concerns with the government being able to track their vessels’ movements,” says the agency’s director Tom O’Connell.
The president of the Maryland’s Watermen’s Association argues against tracking fishermen: “Nobody wants to have the government on your back all the time, but if we don’t do something, two or three bad apples are going to ruin the whole fishery for us.”
It all boils down to the simple fact that you have nothing to worry about if you aren’t doing anything wrong. In fact, putting this program in place could very well point out the rule breakers before tracking a soul.
For now, a grant is assisting in implementing the pilot program. However, if the program is a success and it becomes mandatory, it will be at the fishermen’s expense.
Article Written by Khristen Foss