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Oyster Advisory Commission Reports Preliminary Findings
Rethinking and Revitalization of Oyster Restoration Efforts Needed
ANNAPOLIS, MD — Maryland’s Oyster Advisory Commission recently submitted its 2007 Interim Report Concerning Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Program to Governor Martin O’Malley, the Members of the Maryland General Assembly, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary John R. Griffin.
“Our preliminary efforts have laid the groundwork for a major rethinking of ecological and economic strategies to restore oysters in our Bay,” said OAC Chairman Bill Eichbaum. “Business as usual will not restore the oyster. To be successful, we must go far beyond past efforts.”
In September Secretary Griffin appointed 21 scientists, watermen, anglers, businessmen, economists, environmental advocates and elected officials to serve on the Commission, which is charged with advising the state on matters relating to oysters and strategies for rebuilding and managing the oyster population in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
“Finding a solution to restoring Maryland’s once vibrant oyster population requires us to investigate new approaches that provide oysters the best possible chance to thrive,” said Dr. Donald Boesch, commission member and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science President. “It is also critical that any new oyster management measures are based on the best scientific understanding that we have.”
Recognizing that current oyster populations in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay can neither provide important ecological functions nor sustain an economically viable fishery, the OAC report offers findings on the status of Maryland’s oyster population, oyster bar habitat, sanctuaries, public and private oyster fisheries, managed reserves, economics and enforcement of closed oyster areas. These findings include:
”We all want a well managed fishery and recognize that change is needed, but we need to move ahead in a way that doesn’t leave the commercial oyster industry behind,” said Ben Parks, Commission and Maryland Watermen’s Association member. “If we all work together and implement a carefully planned transition, we can have both.”
- Oyster restoration is a critical component of restoring and preventing further degradation of our Bay. The State has a clear role in restoring the ecological function of an abundant and self-sustaining oyster population.
- A successful self sustaining, ecologically strategic, and enforced large oyster sanctuary program is essential to restoring the ecological function of oysters in Chesapeake Bay.
- More restrictive harvest measures, including a moratorium, alone will not restore oysters and their ecological benefits without a significant, sustained commitment of resources focused on rehabilitating natural oyster bars, significantly minimizing disease impacts, and addressing water quality issues throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
- The State’s role in the oyster industry is to manage the resource sustainably and prevent overfishing. Every major oyster producing area in the world is based on some degree of privatization. It is possible for the State to provide incentives and resources to facilitate the transition of Maryland’s traditional state-private and largely “put-and-take” oyster fishery to a privatized industry.
- Increase in annual funding from the current level of $5 million will be needed during at least the first 10 years to support a revitalized Maryland oyster restoration program that includes increased hatchery production, increased oyster bar habitat rehabilitation, population monitoring, oyster bar habitat mapping and characterization, research and enforcement.
“We hope that DNR will begin exploring implementation of the Commission’s interim findings,” added Chairman Eichbaum.
“We appreciate the Commission’s fresh perspective and honest look at the major challenges facing native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and agree that we will not be successful by continuing the status quo,” said Griffin. “These preliminary findings and subsequent recommendations from the Commission will be used in concert with the pending Draft Environmental Impact Statement – due out this spring – to map out the future of oysters in Maryland.”
To view the full report, visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/oysters/.
January 16, 20088
Contact: Olivia Campbell
410-260-8016 office I 410-507-7525 cell
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov