MD DNR Plays Big Brother

The Maryland Department of the Environment admitted this past weekend to placing tracking devices on the boats of Eastern Shore watermen.

During Friday’s meeting with the Eastern Shore delegation of state lawmakers in Annapolis, the DNR admitted its police force placed the boxes there legally to track repeat violators.

Rep. Michael Smigiel asked DNR Secretary John R. Griffin, “Were court orders obtained before any tracking devices obtained before placing?”

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Griffin replied, “I think my best answer is we followed all necessary law and procedures.”Smigiel asked Griffin if the DNR when to court to get permission. Griffin replied to the affirmative.

Smigiel confirmed Griffin’s response, but told me there was “a long pregnant pause” before Griffin answered his question. Smigiel said he would “be very interested to see him [Griffin] provide verification his agency went to court and the probable cause for obtaining GPS tracking devices.”

According to the Easton Star Democrat, (subscription required) several watermen were extremely upset at finding strange brackets and boxes attached to their vessels earlier this week. DNR police stopped and searched the boat of one waterman, who reported the brackets attached to his vessel.

It is not known if the watermen are indeed “repeat violators” DNR seeks to track. Last week the Baltimore Sun reported that DNR seized illegal nets containing over three tons of rock fish, off Kent Island. According to the report, DNR Police would use the sale of the seized rock fish to purchase surveillance equipment to track poachers. Cpl Roy Rafter, the officer who found the nets said DNR Police had their suspicions about the identity of the poachers, but said it would be “hard to prove.”

“It’s clear DNR and the environmentalists have declared war on the watermen,” Smigiel said. Smigiel contends that through its policies and regulations DNR is taking away the livelihood and heritage of the watermen, thereby creating the very poachers they are tasked to stop.

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