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MARYLAND"S Call for Oyster Moratorium Fails to Sway

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MARYLAND"S Call for Oyster Moratorium Fails to Sway

Old 12-08-2011, 05:06 PM
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Exclamation MARYLAND"S Call for Oyster Moratorium Fails to Sway

Government, BusinessCall for Oyster Moratorium Fails to Sway Watermen, Officials
The population of oysters is so low that several scientists recommended a complete halt on harvesting — advice that has yet to gain traction.


But a moratorium on oyster harvesting has not gained traction among watermen and state officials.
The Chesapeake Bay's oyster population has plummeted since the late 1960s, when Willy Dean, a Maryland waterman since the age of 17, would go hand tonging with his father and "load the boat with oysters."

"The catch is way, way down from what it was back then," Dean said.

The population is so low that several scientists recommended a complete halt on oyster harvesting in a study published in August by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. But a moratorium has not gained traction among watermen and state officials, who see the industry as an important tradition and a small but significant part of the state's economy.

"People would have to get other jobs, leave the business. And once they leave, they don't come back," said Casey Todd, manager of Metompkin Bay Oyster Company, which operates an oyster shucking house in Somerset County. "You can bring the oysters back but you're not going to bring these people back," he said.

That would mean the end of what Todd and others see as an integral part of Maryland's culture and history.

"We've been doing it for generations. My great-great-great grandfather did it," Todd said.

Maryland should work to retain "even a small portion of that old business," said Delegate Jay Jacobs, a Republican who represents all or parts of Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline and Cecil counties, and is a fourth-generation resident of Rock Hall on the Eastern Shore.

"Even though the numbers are very low as far as the catch goes, I think it's important that we maintain that view of that heritage," said Jacobs, who recently boarded a Chesapeake Bay Foundation boat to watch hatchery-produced oyster spat being placed on a sanctuary reef.

Plagued by disease, overfishing and habitat loss, the bay's oyster population -- once the nation's largest fishery -- has declined nearly 100 percent since the early 1800s and 92 percent since 1980, according to the recent study.

Michael Wilberg, the study's chief researcher, argues a complete halt to fishing is necessary to restore populations and reefs.

"We think that fishing pressure has been one of the more important forces that's been acting on oysters over the last probably 150 years or so, and that reducing or eliminating that fishing mortality on oysters would provide them an additional opportunity to begin to recover," said Wilberg, who works in the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons.

Based partly on recommendations from the state's Oyster Advisory Commission, which issued its legislative report in February 2009, Maryland recently expanded its network of oyster sanctuaries but stopped short of a full moratorium.

William Eichbaum, former chairman of the commission, said he started out believing a moratorium might be the solution. But leaving oysters alone, with neither fishing nor investments in restoration, would be a "gamble," he said.

"My own view, as the commission worked, evolved to the point where I didn't think that (a moratorium) was the single-bullet solution to the problem," Eichbaum said, adding that even without fishing, investments would be necessary to help restore the population.

With disease a significant short-term challenge, Eichbaum came to the conclusion that a "large-scale, well-designed sanctuary program" would be sufficient to give oysters an opportunity to develop disease resistance and bounce back. Most oysters in the state's restoration efforts come from UMCES's Horn Point Oyster Hatchery.

Eichbaum said he has not seen Wilberg's study, but a group of scientists and fisheries managers -- members of the Bay Foundation's Fisheries Goal Implementation Team -- is reviewing management options for the oyster fishery based on the latest science, said Stephanie Westby, oyster coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay office.

Members of that group "have some interest in creating some process whereby the new science and old science, the best available science ... can be reviewed, and to try to evaluate the status of the wild fishery in order to help drive management options," Westby said.

Officials at the Department of Natural Resources argue a complete moratorium is unnecessary and would hurt the state's economy.

"We have already put 24 percent of our oyster grounds into a moratorium, and we are committed to studying how that affects populations of oysters in those areas over a five-year timeframe," said Michael Naylor, assistant director of the shellfish program at the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service.

Slightly more than 100,000 oyster bushels were harvested in the 2010-2011 season. While dramatically lower than harvests of several decades ago, last season's harvest had a dockside value of more than $3 million, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Harvested oysters have their shells pried open in shucking houses, which adds value, before going to distributors and supermarkets.

"There's this whole vertical structure between (a waterman) and that eventual buyer, all of which would be affected locally by a moratorium," Naylor said.
Naylor said the fishery's direct impact on Maryland's economy is probably between $10 million and $15 million.

"That's not nothing in anybody's book," he said.

But the sanctuaries, which are sometimes targets of poaching and are starting to be opened for aquaculture leases, are not enough, said Mechanicsville resident Ken Hastings, a longtime environmental activist who supports a moratorium.

"I can't think of another resource that anyone would allow to get down to 0.1 percent of its historical abundance and still insist on going out and indiscriminately killing," Hastings said. "You wouldn't do that with deer or pheasants or black bear or anything like that."

The oyster habitats are so diminished that a moratorium would have little impact on the industry's cultural importance in Maryland, Hastings said.

"I think the cultural significance is pretty much gone, and I don't see that coming back, certainly in my lifetime," he said.

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Old 12-09-2011, 04:09 AM
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It seems there must be a prize for harvesting the last oyster.
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Old 12-09-2011, 11:49 AM
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This is only a localized symptom of a widespread problem starting to manifest itself. Those oysters are part of an ecosystem that is beginning to collapse. Each oyster filters as much as 50 gallons of water daily, remove those filters and you will see effects elsewhere in that chain. I love to eat oysters and realize the economic impact conservation will have locally, but what is the other choice? Continue to harvest until the resource is depleted? The same economic impact is the end result. All things in moderation, sustainable practices, otherwise.... you can see the end.

If left unchecked, the population of any given animal, especially humans, will decimate the local resources.

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Old 12-09-2011, 06:10 PM
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Lived 13 yrs in Solomons...the management of the Ches bay is a joke, between MD, VA and NC, none will really work with the other to protect it...the menhaden catch is a crime, the crap flowing into the bay from chicken farms and developments (lawns) is unchecked...the striper fishery is about to crash again...the oyster regs are way to little, way too late...
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Old 12-09-2011, 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted by slickster View Post
Lived 13 yrs in Solomons...the management of the Ches bay is a joke, between MD, VA and NC, none will really work with the other to protect it...the menhaden catch is a crime, the crap flowing into the bay from chicken farms and developments (lawns) is unchecked...the striper fishery is about to crash again...the oyster regs are way to little, way too late...



You can leave NC out of this, Maryland sucks....
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Old 12-09-2011, 08:01 PM
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NC has for years been taking tons of stripers, way over what is a reasonable take...these fish were mostly hatched and developed in the upper chesapeake and/or were actually hatchery fish from MD....all winter long over size, breeder fish are caught both recreationally and commercially in NC...typical "good ol' boy" management....
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Old 12-09-2011, 09:20 PM
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Lets not forget what the boys in Wanchese did to the rockfish in January this year...
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Old 12-10-2011, 03:57 AM
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Originally Posted by slickster View Post
Lived 13 yrs in Solomons...the management of the Ches bay is a joke,...
This is the problem. In RI, the Narragansett bay has been farmed for quahogs for generations. It takes them 3 times as long to grow to maturity yet there is no shortage of them in the bay. The bay was at one time generations ago a significant producer of "farmed" oysters. A huricane wiped out that industry but it has resurrected itself in the salt marshes further down RI's coast.

These successes have been due to proper management. areas are closed off, some permanently due to pollution (sewage). At times, certain quahogers are paid to harvest theme in these closed areas to move them to other areas to seed more productively. On a nice morning in almost any time of year you can go out on the bay, which is a relatively small body of water, and see upwards of a 100 boats harvesting in different areas.
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Old 12-10-2011, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by slickster View Post
NC has for years been taking tons of stripers, way over what is a reasonable take...these fish were mostly hatched and developed in the upper chesapeake and/or were actually hatchery fish from MD....all winter long over size, breeder fish are caught both recreationally and commercially in NC...typical "good ol' boy" management....



More rockfish are taken by Recs than the Commercial sector.........You sure seem to know alot of NC, being from Florida....I've lived in both Maryland and NC........The Rockfish have been "MANAGED" into the GROUND.........The problems all started back in the 70's when recreational fishing started BOOMING............Maybe the Recs should be blamed too.....
Seafood isn't like Cattle, you can manage them by putting a fence arounf the herd/school...........As long as they can crawl or swim the States will be Playing with themselves thinking their managing will help..Recreational and Commercial Fishermen will be both put out of fishing, look at the snapper/grouper fishing thats being "MANAGED".............
BTW this thread was about Oysters, I know it's hard to bash all the Yankees and Northern States living above Maryland,but as long as their POOP continues to run down the Bay, nothing will live like it once did.......NOTHING!

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Old 12-11-2011, 03:52 AM
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Remember the illegal Rockfish Poachers in February where almost 15 tons of rockfish were found in illegal gill nets? You think they don't do the same thing with oysters?

It's a case of several bad guys ruining it for the rest of them.
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Old 12-11-2011, 04:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Just1more View Post
Remember the illegal Rockfish Poachers in February where almost 15 tons of rockfish were found in illegal gill nets? You think they don't do the same thing with oysters?

It's a case of several bad guys ruining it for the rest of them.
It's alot more than several!
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Old 12-11-2011, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Ben Had View Post
It's alot more than several!
I agree. It takes a pretty broad distribution network to move that quantity of fish. For some reason, the name Harrison comes to mind.
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Old 12-11-2011, 06:04 AM
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Stop the seeding, let the fishery crash and die by their own hands, then start reseeding for the health of the bay.
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Old 12-11-2011, 07:03 AM
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There will be no recovery until the sewer plants stop dumping, chemlawn is out-lawed and excess silt is controlled. Ain't going to happen. Joe waterman is not the problem, just an easy out.
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Old 12-11-2011, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by nanjemoycat View Post
There will be no recovery until the sewer plants stop dumping, chemlawn is out-lawed and excess silt is controlled. Ain't going to happen. Joe waterman is not the problem, just an easy out.




Maryland took control of a large part of The Public Oyster Bottoms........Almost all of the Little Choptank was closed to Harvest......That will ALL BE LOST IF NOT WORKED............DNR is worthless, The placed tracking devises on several Commercial Boats, Maybe even some sport rigs too, who knows....They (DNR) have laws to enforce,and they have the dollars to enforce the laws........DO YOUR DAMN JOB, DNR!!

What a bunch of Jerk-offs..
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Old 12-11-2011, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Gene Ashton View Post


Maryland took control of a large part of The Public Oyster Bottoms........Almost all of the Little Choptank was closed to Harvest......That will ALL BE LOST IF NOT WORKED............DNR is worthless, The placed tracking devises on several Commercial Boats, Maybe even some sport rigs too, who knows....They (DNR) have laws to enforce,and they have the dollars to enforce the laws........DO YOUR DAMN JOB, DNR!!

What a bunch of Jerk-offs..
Thats what people fail to realise, if the bars are not worked they will silt over.
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