The Maryland Fisheries Administration is no more. Department of Natural Resources Secretary James Coulter has reorganized fisheries in an effort to centralize Chesapeake Bay activities directly under his control.
Coulter split the agency into two units, with about 25 employes who had been handling saltwater fisheries forming the nucleus of a new Chesapeake Bay unit, as yet unnamed. That group will work directly under the secretary.
The other half of the department - the freshwater specialists - was shifted to the wildlife administration of B. F. Halla.
Fisheries administrator Robert J. Rubelmann will retain his title but will have no administration to administer.
DNR spokesman William Jabine said the reason for the shift is establishment of an oversight group for the Bay. "There is a great deal of pressure from the public to have one organization that deals strictly with the Bay," he said. Rubelmann added that Coulter told top staffers in a meeting last week that "there seems to be a public clamor for some place to go with problems dealing with the Chesapeake."
The Bay is indeed troubled, with dramatic declines over the last five years in population of striped bass, the state fish; with declines in eel grasses that serve as a nursery for juvenile fishes and with peaks and valleys in shellfish production, particularly oysters.
Jabine said the new Chesapeake unit was a starting point. He said Coulter expects to add specialists from other DNB agencies who have interest in the Bay to the fisheries group.
Some Maryland state employes expressed surprise that Coulter, who serves at the pleasure of the governor, would make these changes a few weeks before a new governor is elected.
Jabine said the shift was something Coulter "had been considering all summer. He said that if he is going to leave, he wants to leave a strong department for his successor. And he wants it strong for himself, should he remain."
The shift coincides with recent approval by the federal government of Maryland's Coastal Zone Management plan, which will bring $1.4 million in first-year federal implementation money.
Jabine said the switch "makes the DNR the lead agency for coordinating state, local and federal activities . . . for conservation of the state's coastal resources."
Easton's annual waterfowl festival opens in two weeks. The yearly gathering of art, decoy and hunting fans runs Nov. 10-12. Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Exhibnts will be scattered around the Eastern Shore town in nine buildings, with shuttle buses running to and from headquarters at the Tidewater Inn. Admission is $2.
Some features: Waterfowl paintings and photographs; decoy-carving exhibits, a buy, sell and swap shop; a decoy auction at 2 p.m. Saturday; finals of the duck-calling contest at 8 p.m. Saturday.
With deer season opening Nov. 20 in Virginia and Nov. 25 in Maryland, it's time to sight-in deer rifles and shotguns. Several area rod and gun clubs are planning sighting-in days.
The Fairfax Rod and Gun Club will have public sighting-in today and Nov. 11 and 12.
The fee is $3 a gun. Gunsmiths will be on hand to inspect all guns. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Club headquarters are on Signal Hill Road in Manassas.