Friday, May 11, 2012

Gov. O'Malley Signs Laws to Improve Fishery Management

Annapolis, Md. (May 2, 2012) - Today, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law several pieces of legislation to improve enforcement of our natural resource laws and further sustainable fisheries management and aquaculture businesses. The bills were supported by watermen groups, recreational fishing groups and environmental organizations.
“Legislation signed by Governor O’Malley today sends a strong message about our mission to protect Maryland’s valued natural resources,” said Secretary John Griffin. “By adjusting our commercial fishing license structure, we are providing more flexibility to our watermen, while increasing individual accountability. Also, by expediting and expanding aquaculture permits and creating new free recreational fishing areas, we will expand opportunities for industry and recreational users.”
“HB 1372 is a perfect example of the achievements that can be made when the Department of Natural Resources and the commercial fishing industry work together in a spirit of cooperation for the benefit of a sustainable fishery,” said Gibby Dean of the Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fisherman’s Association.
Reflecting historical agreement to increase business flexibility and accountability in Maryland’s commercial fishing industry, House Bill 1372 removes some commercial fishing license transfer restrictions, while increasing the accountability on those transfers. Additionally, by providing billing authority to the Department for an individual harvester’s use of fish tags and the new hailing (call-in) system, the legislation will enable the Natural Resources Police to more effectively monitor daily fish harvest as well as begin to address cost recovery concerns.
“This was a very comprehensive bill with very complicated and challenging issues regarding licenses, transfers, fees and so on. We are pleased that we now can work with the DNR’s staff through the summer so that the commercial fishing industry has time to further nail down the details,” said Larry Simns, Maryland Watermen’s Association President. “The watermen thank Secretary Griffin, DNR’s staff and members of the legislature for their support on this major piece of legislation for us.”
“We applaud Governor O’Malley, Secretary Griffin and the entire Department of Natural Resources team for their efforts to improve the manageability, accountability and enforceability of Maryland’s fisheries,” said Tony Friedrich, executive director for Coastal Conservation Association Maryland. “We believe this legislation provides the necessary legal foundation to ensure that funds will be available and allocated in a manner that allows for the responsible stewardship of our shared fish, crabs and oysters.”
House Bill 1306 expedites the shellfish aquaculture lease application process, allows for development of a process that could expand shellfish sales and market opportunities, and provides for the establishment of comparable application costs and lease rent for all shellfish leaseholders.
“The provisions contained in HB 1306 are important in Governor O’Malley’s continuing efforts to establish Maryland as a leader in shellfish aquaculture production,” said Don Webster, vice-chairman of the Maryland Aquaculture Coordinating Council. “We are already seeing increases in economic activity and employment with benefits for the environment through the strong partnership that exists for this industry between our Governor and the Maryland General Assembly.”
House Bill 1305 will allow the Department to create free fishing areas in tidal and nontidal waters of the State where a person may catch finfish for recreational purposes without the otherwise required licenses or authorizations.

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