CAMBRIDGE — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has missed the date by which it had to reply to interrogatories (written questions from one party in a case) after being served discovery requests in Dorchester County Circuit Court over the 2013 menhaden regulations.
“We’ve been working steadily on it,” Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wazenski, who is handling the case for DNR, said. “It’s a significant amount of information that has to be reviewed and prepared for production. We’ve given them a date by which we will respond and are preparing to do that.”
Watermen and plaintiffs Burl Lewis and Larry “Boo” Powley, who are a part of the Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition that is supporting the case, filed the lawsuit on Oct. 18 alleging DNR illegally promulgated menhaden regulations.
Along with the motions the plaintiffs filed in October, discovery requests were served to DNR that asked for various documents and numbers. DNR had until Dec. 5 to respond.
Many of the interrogatory requests relate to the plaintiff’s allegations. For instance, DNR is being asked to turn over any economic impact study, ecological study and a fair and equitable fishery management plan, all of which are required before setting regulations.
Also, the plaintiffs want DNR to show its numbers for the poundage of menhaden caught between 2009 and 2013, since they believe the species is not being overfished in the Chesapeake Bay and that there are disparities in the numbers DNR gave regarding the poundage of menhaden caught in a given day that would not be possible for watermen using pound nets.
Officials for DNR previously said that the higher-than-normal numbers have been fixed and were an error due to a new electronic filing system.
Bob Newberry, spokesman for the Harvesters Land and Sea Coalition, said if DNR had to have these numbers and studies to promulgate the regulations, then it shouldn’t take as long as it has to get the information to the plaintiffs.
In early November, Judge David Mitchell denied the plaintiff’s motion to seek preliminary injunctive relief from the menhaden regulations. The regulations restricted Maryland watermen to collectively harvesting 5.12 million pounds of menhaden this year and set a bycatch allowance of 6,000 pounds per licensee per day. A 12,000 pound limit was set per day for each vessel with two bycatch licensees fishing on it once the total allowable catch was met.
The plaintiffs were also seeking a temporary restraining order from the regulations, but it was too late in the season for the restraining order to be useful.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Jeff Blomquist, said he expects a DNR response to the interrogatories on Jan 6, 2014.
The civil non-jury trial is set for May 28 and 29, 2014 in Dorchester County Circuit Court.
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