News from the DNR Office of Communications

Natural Resources Police Charge Two With Poaching (ROCK HALL)

Kent County Men Were Harvesting Outside Legal Hours

Rock Hall, MD (December 30, 2009) - Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) have charged John Franklin Riggs, 43, and William Howard Beck, 43, with illegal possession of oysters. In an apparent blatant disregard of commercial regulations, the Kent County men were intercepted by NRP officers on December 26 at 2:35 AM – well outside legal harvesting hours -- with seven bushels of oysters.

“We take the wanton violation of oyster laws very seriously,” said DNR Secretary John R. Griffin. “Maryland’s natural resources are a defining part of our public trust. Thankfully, our Natural Resources Police are well-prepared and dedicated to apprehending and charging those who choose to disregard the interests of their fellow citizens and law abiding watermen.”

Commercial oyster harvesting in Maryland is limited to daylight hours Monday through Friday in November and December. The restriction on nighttime oystering is in place to prevent harvest from protected sanctuaries, where poachers often used radar to track NRP boats and dump their illegal harvest before officers could reach them. The law allows two hours of travel time for law-abiding watermen to transport a legal load of oysters to shore for sale.

The NRP returned the oysters unharmed to the Swan Point Oyster Bar near Rock Hall.

This arrest and a number of other recent oyster-related charges come on the heels of Governor Martin O’Malley’s announced proposal earlier this month for a new management and restoration plan for oysters and the Maryland oyster industry.

The proposed plan will increase Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries, expand the leasing opportunities for oyster aquaculture, and maintain 167,720 acres of natural oyster habitat for a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically-manages public oyster fishery.

A noteworthy part of this program is the launch of fresh enforcement initiatives and enhancements including the installation of a network of radar and camera units to assist the NRP in monitoring sensitive areas that are prone to poaching.

At present, a first-time oyster law offender may face a fine of $500 for each count in the charging document. If convicted, the DNR will automatically suspend the perpetrators’ licenses for 180 days, which will take them out of legal oyster fishing for the next season. A second conviction could result in a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

Riggs and Beck are scheduled to appear for trial in Kent County District Court on February 18, 2010.

   December 30, 2009

Contact: Sgt. Art Windemuth

The Maryland Natural Resources Police is the enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With an authorized strength of 249 officers and a dedicated staff of civilian and volunteer personnel, the NRP provide a variety of services in addition to conservation and boating law enforcement duties throughout the State of Maryland. These services include homeland security, search and rescue, emergency medical services, education, information and communications services on a round the clock basis. NRP is the only police force aside from the Maryland State Police that has statewide jurisdiction.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 461,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries, and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic, and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority.  Learn more at