Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Watermen Want 'Their' Oysters, and They Want Them Now

Md. officials, wary oystermen await restoration results
Maryland will get a window into the effectiveness of their sanctuaries come July, when the results of a multi-year, multi-million dollar oyster restoration project in the Chesapeake Bay become available. Until then, oyster stakeholders throughout Maryland are playing the waiting game — a game local watermen say they can’t play much longer.

Nearly a quarter of the remaining available oyster habitats in the bay are sanctuaries, including Harris Creek, the site of the state’s restoration project. To ensure the best chance of success for the sanctuaries, the state and its partner agencies picked locations with good water quality, ideal salt levels and hard bottoms for the oysters to settle on.
If it were up to me, 100% of the Bay would be oyster sanctuaries, at least until we find out if "wild" oysters are still capable of thriving in today's bay. There used to be a lot more "oyster bottom" in the Bay before the watermen mined it all away:
Many of those locations, however, were frequently worked by watermen, according to Reihl. “They took 25 percent of the best bottom in the state,” said Reihl, who also serves as a board member for the Maryland Oystermen Association. “If we’re not going to get that 25 percent back, and we don’t expect to get it back, you have to make do with what you got.”
The economics of oyster restoration:
 By the numbers:

$14.1M - The approximate amount Maryland oystermen brought in in dockside sales in 2014, a 15-year high, according to the Maryland Oyster Population Status Report 2014 Fall Survey.

$25M-plus - The amount the state and partner agencies have spent on the Harris Creek oyster restoration project between 2011 and 2015, for construction and seeding of oyster bars across 312 acres of river bottom.
Add in the research, and the cost of the facilities, natural oysters in the Bay are costing more than we're getting back out of it at this point.

Bonus read: A good article at WAPO about the last black skipjack captain.

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