NORFOLK (AP) -- Virginia officials say oyster poaching has become epidemic in the Chesapeake Bay.

Last year, the Virginia Marine Police logged 240 violations for illegal oyster harvesting. Some were for harvesting oysters intended to restore the bay's ailing stocks from protected sanctuaries.

Police and shellfish experts say several factors have contributed to the increase in poaching, including a weak economy and fewer patrol officers on the water.

The Virginian Pilot reports that state officials are discussing ways to combat the problem. They include revoking the licenses of repeat offenders more frequently. Oyster boats might be required to have GPS tracking devices so the marine police can keep better tabs on them ithout being on the water.

Virginia Watermen's Association president Ken Smith says the state should enforce the regulations it has.


Information from: The Virginian-Pilot,

AP-WF-03-11-13 0708GMT

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