NEWPORT NEWS — — The Virginia Marine Resources Commission on Tuesday agreed to extend oyster dredging in the lower James River through February after hearing from watermen who wanted more time.So, because Dec was cold and gusty, they wanted TWO more months to make up for it? Nothing the Bay could throw up would equal a tenth the trouble the guys on the "Deadliest Catch" go through to catch crabs. Don't have the equipment? Not VMRCs fault.
Last month, watermen had asked the commission to allow dredging in the James until March 31, presenting a petition with about 100 signatures. Dredging is the practice of gathering oysters by dragging a steel basket across the bottom of the river or bay.
The waterman said they deserved more time because cold, gusty weather in December kept them sidelined. An extension would help keep a few hundred people in their jobs, they said.
The commission didn't act on the request immediately, opting to do a stock assessment to determine if an extension was advisable. The survey took place earlier this month.Yes, really, their rationalization is that there's at least one more market sized oyster out there, and "Them boys are owed them Ersters".
"There are market-sized oysters out there," said John Bull, commission spokesman. "So it would not be biologically damaging to let them harvest some more. That's the scientific assessment."
The commission's vote was unanimous. It set a bushel limit of 6 per day, down from 10.
Oyster harvests in the Bay are down to 1% of what they were at the height of oystering in the 1800s. We don't have to imagine how plentiful they were then, there were plenty of accounts of oyster bars that broke the surface of the water and were hazards to shipping. Old maps show extensive oyster bars lining the shallow waters of the Bay from ocean to as far up the bay as salt concentrations would allow them to grow. Now, a few pitiful bars with a sparse collection of oysters are hounded mercilessly by the few remaining oyster-men.
Oyster management is a joke. If any fin fishery were at that fraction of it's known maximum abundance, fishing would be halted until the population rebounded to healthy levels. The fact that that hasn't been done is proof that the managers just don't care about oysters.