St. Mary's Waterman has Oyster License Permanently Revoked

James Phillip Nelson, 39, of Hollywood, Md.
James Phillip Nelson, 39, of Hollywood, Md.

ANNAPOLIS (November 24, 2015) — A St. Mary’s County waterman had his commercial license permanently revoked by a district court judge after a hearing on multiple poaching charges.

James Phillip Nelson, 39, of Hollywood, is prohibited from working in the oyster fishery in any capacity after he was convicted of harvesting oysters from a polluted area, and possessing oysters that were between 28 percent and 48 percent undersized, a second offense on both counts.

Nelson was fined $3,750, with $2,000 of it suspended, and was ordered to pay court costs. He also was sentenced to three years of unsupervised probation on each of the three charges. The sentence was handed down in St. Mary’s District Court on Nov. 5.

However, charges that Nelson disobeyed Maryland Natural Resources Police officers and hindered their investigation were placed on the stet docket, postponed indefinitely.

Nelson was arrested on April 14, the last day of the 2014-2015 oyster season, after he became agitated and refused to obey officers as they attempted to check his catch at Feldman’s Marine Railway in Drayden.

Officers conducting surveillance saw Nelson leave the dock and return at about 2:50 p.m. As an officer approached Nelson and his helper after they trailered the vessel, Nelson attempted to reverse his trailer toward the boat ramp. During the distraction, the helper hid a bucket among the outbuildings.

Nelson was angry and refused to comply with multiple orders from the officers, who attempted to handcuff him to keep him in one location. The waterman continued to resist and was sprayed with oleoresin capsicum — also known as pepper spray. He was taken into custody and driven to the St. Mary’s County Detention Center.

Officers inspected and measured the 12 bushels of oysters on Nelson’s vessel and found that 10 bushels contained between seven and 10 percent undersized oysters. The bucket retrieved from the outbuildings contained 28 percent undersized oysters. A pile of oysters dumped near the boat ramp, equivalent to three-quarters of a bushel, contained 48 percent undersized oysters.

Nelson has a history of poaching convictions dating back to the mid-1990s involving illegal crabbing, oyster harvesting and hunting.

Source: Md. Dept. of Natural Resources

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