OCEAN CITY – Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) this week seized three tons of illegally harvested striped bass from a trawler at the commercial harbor in West Ocean City after watching the 80-foot vessel drag a net about two miles off the Inlet all day last Sunday.
According to Maryland Natural Resources Police spokesman Sgt. Ken Turner, NRP officers boarded the commercial trawler “Mount Vernon” last Sunday after watching the vessel drag a net for striped bass, or rockfish, about two miles off the coast near the Ocean City Inlet. NRP officials seized from the vessel nearly three tons of stripers, made illegal because the operators were fishing between 6 p.m. on Friday and 5 a.m. on Monday, when the rockfish season was officially closed.
NRP officers issued citations to three individuals on the vessel, Mark H. Bryan, 53; Bayard Lewis Taylor III, 64; and Jack C. Colbourne, 59, all of East New Market, Md., charging them with illegal fishing. For Colbourne, who is the owner of Colbourne Seafood Inc., in Secretary in Dorchester County, it was the second citation for illegal striped bass fishing in a span of five days. He was also cited for illegally harvesting rockfish aboard the “Mount Vernon” back on December 30, according to Turner.
On that date, NRP officers boarded the “Mount Vernon” in West Ocean City and charged Colbourne with exceeding his 1,900-pound seasonal allocation of striped bass. According to Turner, Colbourne had exceeded his limit by a mere 138 pounds in that incident. On the same day, Michael Coppa, 42, of Del Haven, N.J., was also cited by NRP for illegally catching rockfish off the coast of Ocean City while fishing aboard the vessel “Instigator.” Coppa was charged with exceeding his seasonal allocation and later paid a fine of $227.50.
For his alleged offense on Dec. 30, Colbourne is scheduled to appear in District Court in Worcester County on Feb. 13. Colbourne, Bryan and Taylor are scheduled to appear for the Jan. 4 seizure on Feb. 20. They each face fines of $250 if they plead guilty prior to the court date, but the fine doubles to $500 if they are found guilty by a judge.
In the meantime, NRP officials sold the three tons of seized rockfish for market price for an undisclosed amount of money. A check for the illegal fish is sitting in an escrow account until the cases against those charged are resolved. If the cases go against the defendants, the judge will allocate the money where he sees fit, which will likely forfeit it to the state. If the defendants are found innocent, the check for the illegal rockfish will be returned to them.