Commercial waterman faces charges for conch violations

DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police arrested a commercial waterman June 3 for nearly 300 fishing violations — most of them for illegal taking of knobbed conch — after boarding his vessel for a no-wake violation near the Lewes public boat ramp on May 31.

Shawn P. Moore, 40, of Georgetown, was charged with 289 counts of possession of undersized knobbed conch measuring less than the legal size limit of 5 inches in length, plus four counts of unlawful method of take for summer flounder, four counts of possession of unlawfully taken fish, and one count each of no commercial license in possession while fishing and failure to observe a slow-no-wake zone.

Moore pleaded not guilty to all charges at Justice of the Peace Court 3 in Georgetown and was released on a $15,400 unsecured bond, pending a later appearance in the Sussex County Court of Common Pleas.

Fish & Wildlife police noted that Moore had previously been convicted of 30 counts of possession of undersized knobbed conch in 2015, making the latest undersize-conch charges second offenses and environmental misdemeanors, carrying fines of up to $500 per charge if he is found guilty.

Knobbed conch, also known as whelk, are Delaware’s fourth largest commercial fishery, with recent harvests estimated around 500,000 pounds annually. Most are exported to the European or Asian market and used to make fritters, chowders and salads. Commercial size limits are 5 inches in length, or 3 inches in width at the whorl. Commercial watermen are permitted to possess five undersized conch by incidental catch per 60 pounds.

About 90 percent of the knobbed conch are harvested by dredging, with the dredge season from Jan. 15 through June 15. Channeled whelk also are harvested in Delaware, typically by pot. Egg cases of both species — consisting of long, light tan-colored chains of compartments about nickel- to quarter-size — are a common find along Delaware’s beaches.