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Maryland fights Chesapeake Bay poaching

BALTIMORE, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- Maryland wildlife authorities say new laws and new technologies will assist them in combating striped bass poaching in Chesapeake Bay.

In 2011 miles of illegal nets with 12.6 tons of striped bass were seized from waters of Kent Island in the bay in the war on poaching of the state's signature fish, The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday.

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That caused the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to close the season three weeks early while biologists assessed the potential damage caused by poaching, the newspaper reported.

"It was just a few bad apples, but they almost ruined it for everyone," Natural Resources Police Cpl. Roy Rafter said.

The legal daily quota allowed is 1,200 pounds of fish.

This year the department is armed with new weapons against illegal poaching, including side-scan sonar to detect underwater nets and new laws passed by the General Assembly that expand its authority.

"The sonar shows us where to look [for illegal nets]," Rafter said. "Then we can use the hook to pull the nets up. It would have been fantastic last year."

And the new laws give officers and fisheries biologists authorization to conduct surprise audits of the stations where fisherman check in their catches at the end of the day.

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