U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin (both D-Md.) today announced the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released over $1 million to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help restore the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population. The funding, secured by Senator Mikulski in the FY2012 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) funding bill, will allow for targeted oyster restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and will help monitor oyster health.A million bucks is a drop in the budget in the scheme of the resources needed to fix the Chesapeake Bay, when you consider that the overall cost of the 'Bay Diet' is estimated to be $15 billion (with a "b"), which I see as an underestimate. If they consider the oyster to be an important part of that restoration, and I think that's a fair assumption, then that is a trivial expense.
“The Chesapeake Bay is part of who we are as Marylanders – it is part of our heritage and part of our culture – and it’s our greatest natural resource. This funding is a federal investment in the lives and livelihoods that depend on the Bay,” said Senator Mikulski, Chairwoman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science which funds NOAA. “I will continue to fight to keep the Bay and Eastern Shore communities priorities in the federal checkbook.”However, I'm not convinced that efforts to stock and replenish oysters are the best use of funds. If oysters can succeed in the bay, they can do it without help, other than to stop mining them. If they can't, no amount of artificial enrichment of their numbers will succeed.
DNR was awarded $1,080,000 to implement a multi-year oyster population restoration process, which includes reseeding, monitoring, and evaluation of different restoration methods. To make this happen, DNR works directly with the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science to produce the oyster seed, or “spat on shell,” and then with the Oyster Recovery Partnership and local watermen for on-the-water operations to rebuild reefs. When complete, the project will place up to 300 million seeds in targeted Chesapeake Bay tributaries to aid with oyster population recovery.The current strategy of replenishing oysters and then allowing watermen to fish them "because they'll just get diseased and die anyway" is an admission of failure. Best to stop the fishing entirely, and find out if conditions in the bay will permit a recovery.