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Maryland Cites More Watermen for Fishing Violations

But in an unforgiving economy, Simns said, more watermen are breaking the law. They are fed up with what they consider overregulation, he said, and they are struggling to make payments on their boats, homes and cars.

"They're pushing the limits more all the time," Simns said. "None of it's excusable, but that's the name of the game."

Joseph Bruce Janda Jr., 23, of Wittman told a St. Mary's County judge last month that he illegally gathered undersize oysters in October to help make his house payments, said Jerome Janda III, his cousin.

Jerome Janda, a waterman himself, said that times are tough for all fishermen and that his cousin was simply trying to support his girlfriend, her daughter and a child that was on the way.

"A lot of them say that's what they got to do to make a living," he said. "It's getting harder all the time. We're working more and more to try to make the same amount of money."

Joseph Janda, who has a long history of violating natural resource laws, is serving a three-month sentence and could not be reached to comment.

Schwaab said fishermen who break the law are stealing from their future to satisfy immediate needs. "It's the functional equivalent of eating your seed corn," he said. "I think that's in part why we're here. We have to look out for the long-term viability of these stocks."

Limits on catches can change weekly, and Dierker said that during one week, he was permitted to catch no more than 350 pounds of rockfish, not nearly enough to make a living when sold for about $1 a pound. Dierker, who is charged with using an anchored gill net and other offenses, said the restrictions put watermen in a difficult spot.

"It's not like I'm standing on the corner selling drugs," he said.

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