Monday, July 25, 2011

Maybe the Word "Sanctuary" Doesn't Mean What I Think It Means

Leasing allowed in oyster sanctuaries
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is preparing to open up areas within newly established oyster sanctuaries for aquaculture leasing.

More information should be available soon, said Mike Naylor, DNR shellfish program director, that will let watermen and others lay claim to waters within the state's thousands of sanctuary acres. The state has pushed to shift the dwindling oyster harvest from public bars to aquaculture, in which watermen grow their own oysters, either on the water's bottom or in floating cages.

"A lot of our sanctuaries already have leases in them," Naylor said. Existing leases, like two within the St. Mary's River, were grandfathered into an oyster management plan that went into effect last year.

A change in the law this year will allow for new leases within certain areas of oyster sanctuaries.

Naylor said it was never the state's intention to stop people from raising oysters and harvesting their own within a sanctuary. Throughout the oyster management plan, sanctuaries are often defined as prohibiting the harvesting of wild oysters.

About 24 percent of what the state deemed as the remaining quality habitat for oysters was mapped out as sanctuaries under the new plan, making the areas off limits to public harvest.
While I'm all for oyster aquaculture in Chesapeake Bay, I think that a sanctuary should be some place where native oysters are allowed to grow unmolested, not a place where watermen set out their cages to grow oysters for harvest, or to lay oysters on the bottom for growth and subsequent harvest.

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