The Virginia Marine Police is vigorously taking actions against the poaching of oysters from state waters, according to Virginia Marine Resources Commission spokesman John Bull.
Bull said the state launched a new initiative last fall to “crush what has become an epidemic of poaching.” The Marine Police is the commission’s law enforcement division.
“We mean business,” said Virginia Marine Police Chief Rick Lauderman. “We will vigorously pursue anyone who violates the oyster regulations and we will prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
“Stealing oysters from the public oyster grounds, private leased grounds or from oyster sanctuaries in particular will not be tolerated,” Lauderman continued. “Oyster poaching in Virginia will stop.”
Bull said a number of marine police officers have been assigned to search for oyster violations as their top priorities. Plans are for VMP to try to catch poachers with boats, land vehicles, and even an airplane. However, Bull said the VMP only has 77 officers who are asked to monitor more than 5,000 miles of Virginia shoreline.
To back up VMP, the VMRC has decided to penalize poachers to the maximum extent allowed by law. During this past fall, for example, VMRC revoked licenses of six watermen for poaching and related activities, Bull said, including three watermen who had their licenses revoked for two years and three others who lost their licenses for one year. State law allows a two-year maximum penalty for license revocation, Bull said.