News from the DNR Office of Communications

NRP Charges Four Tilghman Island Men With Oyster Poaching

Annapolis, Md. (February 1, 2010) – Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) have charged Bartlett Wade Murphy Jr., 36; Edward Bruce Lowery Jr., 45; Bobby Lee Gowe, 25; and Richard Nicholas Fluharty, 24, all from Tilghman, Md., with Oyster poaching related charges.

NRP officers were patrolling Broad Creek in Talbot County in an open patrol boat at 1:30 a.m. on January 21 when they discovered four watermen on two vessels illegally power dredging for oysters.

The poachers were working with their navigation lights off in order to avoid detection, but NRP officers were able to observe their illicit activity with night vision goggles. As the NRP officers approached the closest vessel, “Lady Katie”, they found two men culling oysters with lights strapped to their heads to illuminate the boat’s deck and working area. The watermen on the vessel were identified as Murphy and Lowery. The “Lady Katie” and her crew were more than 7,500 feet into a well-marked hand tong only area where power dredging is prohibited at all times.

When the officers approached the second boat, “Lil Lady”, the crew gunned the boat’s engine and attempted to flee. After a few minutes the vessel stopped, and the two poachers, Gowe and Fluharty, were arrested without further incident. The officers determined the poachers were taking oysters more than 8,000 feet into the well-defined hand tong only area. Also, found in the water was a glow stick that the crew used to mark their unlawful spot.

All four watermen were charged with power dredging outside legal hours, power dredging in a restricted hand tong area and possession of oysters on board a vessel more than two hours after sunset. Each of these citations carries a prepayable fine of $125.00 and a maximum fine of $1000 for the first offense per offense. Gowe and Murphy received additional citations of operating a vessel without navigational lights which carries a prepayable fine of $85 and a maximum fine of $500. A court date has been set for March 18, 2010 in the District Court of Maryland for Talbot County.

These charges and a number of other recent oyster-related charges come on the heels of Governor Martin O’Malley’s announced proposal last month for a new management and restoration plan for oysters and the Maryland oyster industry. The proposed plan will increase Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries, expand the leasing opportunities for oyster aquaculture, and maintain 167,720 acres of natural oyster habitat for a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically-manages public oyster fishery.

A noteworthy part of this program is the launch of fresh enforcement initiatives and enhancements including the installation of a network of radar and camera units to assist the NRP in monitoring sensitive areas that are prone to poaching.

   February 1, 2010

Contact: Sgt. Art Windemuth

The Maryland Natural Resources Police is the enforcement arm of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With an authorized strength of 249 officers and a dedicated staff of civilian and volunteer personnel, the NRP provide a variety of services in addition to conservation and boating law enforcement duties throughout the State of Maryland. These services include homeland security, search and rescue, emergency medical services, education, information and communications services on a round the clock basis. NRP is the only police force aside from the Maryland State Police that has statewide jurisdiction.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009, is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at