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Two men found guilty of illegially harvesting oysters

Saturday - 3/22/2014, 4:24pm  ET

Justin Mitchell, WTOP.com

Baltimore, MD -- The Office of Maryland District Attorney Douglas Gansler announced Friday that brothers William and Irving Catlin of Westover must pay fines for harvesting seven bushels of oysters from a state sanctuary in Tangier Sound.

Their case is the first conviction using the Maryland Law Enforcement Information Network, or MLEIN, an electronic surveillance system originally designed for homeland security purposes.

In an interview with WTOP, Gansler said the system consists of two parts: radars that draw an "invisible fence" around protected areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay, plus six or seven sites where cameras supplement the radars.

"If somebody comes within the perimeter, it actually pings the home computer of DNR [the Maryland Department of Natural Resources]," Gansler said.

When William Catlin's boat entered the protected area on Nov. 25, MLEIN alerted a Natural Resources Police officer. The officer stopped William and Irving Catlin's boat as it left the sanctuary. The officer found the oysters on board and wrote the Catlins a ticket.

Both brothers were found guilty of unlawfully harvesting oysters from a state sanctuary. William Catlin, the boat's captain, was fined $1,000, while Irving Catlin was fined $450.

In 2013, Maryland became one of the first jurisdictions to start using MLEIN to protect its natural resources.

Gansler says the system is necessary to prevent violations like this as the oyster population struggles with 50 years of pollution in the Chesapeake.

"It's unrealistic to think you're going to have Natural Resources Police officers monitoring every square mile of the bay," he said. "Having this technology really is an asset, and it's going help prevent poaching in the future."

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