Representatives of a Lottsburg seafood company were disappointed to learn Thursday that one of their truck drivers was arrested for a crime for which they believed he was not responsible.
According to a press release from the Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), a tractor-trailer, driven by Rhoderick J. Newman, 66, of Tappahannock, was heading westbound on U.S. 50 in Easton, MD. on the night of Jan. 15 when Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP), acting on a tip, pulled over the vehicle.
After the truck was directed to a parking lot for cargo inspection, officers discovered that, out of the 188 bushels of oysters in the back of the truck, 187 contained oysters that fell below the legal minimum size of three inches, making the 187 bushels illegal.
According to the DNR, the bust resulted in one of the largest cases of undersized oyster poaching in recent years.
Newman was charged with one count of attempting to transport undersized oysters out of state and five counts of possession of undersized and unculled oysters.
The tractor-trailer, owned by Lottsburg-based Cowart Seafood Corp. was as of Thursday being held in an NRP impoundment lot.
Newman could be facing up to $187,000 in total fines.
“There is no excuse for any amount of oyster poaching, let alone what happened here,” DNR Secretary Joseph P. Gill was quoted as saying in the release. “A blatant disregard for our fishery is a slap in the face to responsible watermen, and all Marylanders.”
But A.J. Erskine, the aquaculture manager for Cowart Seafood, stressed that his company did not feel that Newman, “as strictly a truck driver of product,” has the authority or responsibility to measure the oysters that were loaded into his truck and therefore deem them as undersized.
Erskine was critical of the Jan. 16 DNR press release, noting it did not say that the licensed Maryland watermen and the Maryland oyster dealer, from whom Newman received the oysters, had the responsibility for the undersized product, not the truck driver.
“These were open, public oyster grounds,” he said. “These were not Virginia boats. They were not Cowart Seafood boats that were up there. The only thing that we had there was a truck driver and a truck.”
—Pick up the January 22 issue of the Northumberland Echo to read the full story!—