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Cops Go High-Tech to Stop Poaching

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on January 24, 2012 6:07 AM

Fish poaching is serious -- and illegal -- business. Police in Maryland are now armed with new poaching laws and high-tech equipment to battle the problem.

This is good news for fisherman. Last year the state had to shut down the fishing season early. Poachers had taken 13 tons of striped bass.

Fishermen who were legitimately trying to make a living were out of luck. Biologists were called in to analyze the potential damage to the area.

The daily quota for legal fishing is 1,200 pounds of the fish. Poachers often go above this amount.

Police now have access to better technology and equipment to fight poaching. They now have a side-scan sonar to find underwater nets. Once they find a net, they can lower a hook and bring it up.

In the past, law enforcement had to rely partly on luck. "We're not dragging aimlessly through the water anymore with a hook; we can actually see the bottom now," Natural Resources Police Corporal Roy Rafter told CBS News.

Officers will also use their smartphones. An application called "Pocket Cop" has been added to their list of tools. It's functional. It allows police to check on a waterman's license and to see if there are any outstanding warrants. It will also allow officers to make sure the tags attached to the fish actually belong to the waterman.

There are also new poaching laws that may help. Officials will now be able to conduct surprise audits of fishermen stations. These are used when fishermen come in at the end of the day.

Whether or not the new poaching laws will put a damper on illegal activity remains to be seen. But there is room for optimism. Watermen everywhere are probably hoping that this season doesn't end early because of fish poaching.

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