CHESTERTOWN — A Kent County man had his license for striped bass fishing suspended for one year following his conviction for two counts of exceeding the daily limit as a commercial waterman. Donald Charles Pierce, 64, of Rock Hall, also was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine to the Natural Resources Fisheries Research and Development Fund, and had his entire fishing license suspended for 30 days.
Sentencing was Aug. 13 in the Circuit Court of Kent County. Judge Paul M. Bowman presided.
Pierce pleaded guilty to two counts of exceeding the daily limit.
According to a news release from the office of Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, state Natural Resources Police began an investigation after receiving information that Pierce had been using fishing licenses that did not belong to him during the striped bass season in January and February of 2011.
Striped bass regulations from 2011 allowed Pierce to catch the daily legal limit of 300 pounds per striped bass allocation. There also was a maximum permitted allotment for total catch per boat of 1,400 pounds per day.
According to the news release, Pierce used a check station at Ford’s Seafood in Rock Hall for his striped bass catch. Records were obtained from Ford’s as well as from the filings made to the Department of Natural Resources.
The investigation determined that Shirlyn Edwards had given Pierce her deceased husband’s striped bass allocation to use and that Nevitte Ford, owner of Ford’s Seafood, had given Pierce his striped bass allocation. Neither of these allocations were properly transferred to Pierce, who already held the maximum number of permits per person of four striped bass allocations, according to the attorney general’s news release.
Records from Ford’s Seafood and conversation with witnesses revealed that on Feb. 1, 2011, Pierce checked in 1,101 pounds of striped bass under his allocations, as well as 313 pounds under the deceased Mr. Edwards’ allocation and 324 pounds under the allocation of Nevitte Ford. Additionally, Allen Sutton was fishing on Pierce’s boat that day and checked in 690 pounds of striped bass under his own two allocations.
According to court testimony, a total of eight allocations – four over the maximum allowed – checked in striped bass from Pierce’s boat on that date. The checked striped bass from Pierce’s boat totaled 2,428 pounds, which is 45 percent over the legal limit.
On Feb. 25, 2013, Pierce checked in 1,389 pounds of striped bass under his allocations, as well as 245 pounds under the deceased Mr. Edwards’ allocation. Sutton was again fishing on Pierce’s boat that day and checked in 670 pounds of striped bass under his own allocations.
The total striped bass checked in from Pierce’s boat with seven allocations was 2,307 pounds – 36 percent over the legal limit.
Striped bass fisheries are managed on a coastwide level by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which comprises 15 states from Maine to Florida.
“The harvest of striped bass is managed ... to ensure the sustained health of the coastal population and its dependent fisheries. The illegal taking of striped bass in any jurisdiction along the Atlantic coast threatens the long-term health of this highly valued coastal migratory fish,” Gansler wrote in the news release.