Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Oysters in the News

Again. Two different, but related articles about oysters appeared in the Chesapeake Bay news feed today. First, the claim that the data the governor used to ask for a temporary halt in oyster restoration in the Tred Avon (how cool is that name?) River was faulty, and given to him by watermen:

Math error halts multi-million dollar oyster restoration
According to various reports, three watermen visited with Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford just before Christmas, provided him with data that was mathematically erroneous, and as a result the State, without conferring with any other stakeholders, shut down the federally funded efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to restore oysters in designated sanctuaries in the Tred Avon and Little Choptank rivers.
. . .
Two of the watermen who met with Rutherford apparently claimed that the restoration efforts in the sanctuaries, which are off-limits to commercial harvest, are a failure and should be overhauled. Rob Newberry, head of the Delmarva Fisheries Association, and Bunky Chance, president of Talbot County Watermen’s Association, based their assertion in part on their comparison of the Harris Creek spat set and the nearby Broad Creek spat set. Newberry and Chance apparently told the lieutenant governor that the state’s annual survey of oyster reproduction, performed by state biologists, shows that an unrestored reef in nearby Broad Creek has more spat set than the rebuilt reefs in Harris Creek.

According to marine scientists, their arguments were based on incorrect math and irrelevant criteria. The Journal reports that Lisa Kellogg, a senior research scientist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, requested the document that Chance and Newberry were using to make their claims and compared that data to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ 2014 fall oyster survey. Kellogg said the watermen made a math error and added spat per shell from two bushels instead of averaging them . . .
If true, that would be a stupid math error. The watermen should have pulled a Clinton and hid their homework.

The second story is that the lions and lambs have decided to collaborate to manage the oysters: Scientists, watermen work together in new study to preserve oyster industry. Only I'm not quite sure who's the lion and who's the lamb:
Titled “OysterFutures,” the primary goal of this five-year research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is to develop recommendations for oyster fishing practices and restoration based on agreement by a 16-member stakeholder group comprising watermen, aquaculture producers, a seafood buyer and representatives of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Nature Conservancy, Coastal Conservation Association, Phillips Wharf Environmental Center, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the federal government.

The recommendations will be submitted to Mark Belton, DNR secretary.

For any idea to move forward to within the stakeholder group, it must have 75 percent agreement.
By my count, the watermen are seriously outnumbered.

My own position on oyster restoration remains the same; halt all fishing on wild oysters for 5, or preferably 10 years and lets find out if oysters can restore themselves in the Chesapeake Bay as it exists today. The plan is unlikely to be popular with anyone on the panel, since it gives them nothing to get paid to do.

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