Contact: Cpl. John McDerby, Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Natural Resources Police, 302-739-9913 or 302-354-1386, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Commercial waterman charged with
more than 200 commercial shellfish violations
DOVER (Nov. 13, 2014) – Following an investigation, DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Natural Resources Police officers on Nov. 1 arrested a commercial waterman and charged him with 224 commercial shellfish violations, many of which involved horseshoe crabs, on the Delaware Bay.
Jason T. Watson, 37, of Milford, was charged with two counts of no horseshoe crab dredge permit, 167 counts of unlawful possession of horseshoe crabs, 22 counts of using improperly marked commercial conch pots, 30 counts of using commercial conch pots without required bait-saving device, two counts of illegally taking shellfish after sunset/before sunrise, and one count of illegal commercial conch catch from a vessel not owned by the commercial conch licensee.
Watson was arraigned in Justice of the Peace Court 3 in Georgetown and released on $20,350 unsecured bond, after pleading not guilty to the charges. A trial is pending at a later date.
Delaware’s commercial fishing regulations require licensed commercial watermen to obtain a commercial dredge permit or a commercial collection permit in order to harvest horseshoe crabs from Delaware waters. Delaware regulations allow a limited hand harvest of male horseshoe crabs after June 7 each year. Delaware also issues five dredge permits by lottery, if the annual horseshoe crab quota has not been landed by hand harvest as of July 1. In 2014, Delaware’s quota of 160,435 male horseshoe crabs was landed by the hand harvest sector and the fishery closed on June 19. As such, no dredge permits were issued in 2014 and a dredge fishery was not authorized.
Horseshoe crabs are an important species in Delaware, both ecologically and economically. Horseshoe crab eggs provide a vital food source to fuel the long journey of migrating shorebirds, including the endangered red knot that pass through Delaware each spring, a spectacle that draws many wildlife-watching visitors. Horseshoe crabs are also used as bait for eel and whelk pot fisheries, and their unique copper-based blood is used in medical testing.
Conch (or whelk) are an important commercial fishery in Delaware, with a dockside value estimated at $0.5 million in 2013.
The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.
Vol. 44, No. 399