In 2020, through Natural Resources Articles 4-204 and 4-215, Annotated Code of Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources, in coordination with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, convened a restructured Oyster Advisory Commission. The Commission is tasked with:
- Provide the Department with advice on matters related to oysters in the Chesapeake Bay;
- Review the best possible science and recommend changes to the framework and strategies for rebuilding and managing the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay under the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Plan;
- Review the latest findings relevant to the Environmental Impact Statement evaluating oyster restoration alternatives for the Chesapeake Bay;
- Review any other scientific, economic, or cultural information relevant to oysters in the Chesapeake Bay;
- Develop a package of consensus recommendations in coordination with the department for enhancing and implementing the fishery management plan for oysters.
The fishery management plan shall:
- End the overfishing of oysters in all areas and regions of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries where overfishing has occurred according to biological reference points established by the most recent oyster stock assessment while maintaining a harvest in the fishery;
- Achieve fishing mortality rates at target levels;
- Increase oyster abundance;
- Increase oyster habitat; and
- Facilitate the long-term sustainable harvest of oysters, including the public fishery.
The consensus recommendation package for enhancing and implementing the fishery management plan for oysters will be informed by a collaboratively developed, science-based modeling tool to quantify the long-term impacts of identified management actions and possible combinations of management actions on:
- Oyster abundance;
- Oyster habitat;
- Oyster harvest;
- Oyster harvest revenue; and
- Nitrogen removal.
The consensus recommendation package will be developed through a facilitated process based on 75% majority agreement level whereas 60% of the voting commissioners are in the oyster industry.