Acting after three watermen met with Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, the state’s natural resources secretary asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to hold up a federally funded reef building project about to begin in the Tred Avon River near St. Michaels.While I generally agree with watermen that a respite in the oyster restoration project is reasonable, we disagree entirely on why. Watermen don't want any restoration if it means that water will be off limits to oystering, even if it means halting all progress on oyster recovery.
DNR secretary Mark J. Belton declined to explain his request for the delay when asked about it by Bay Journal reporters. He referred all questions to his communications director, Stephen E. Schatz, who said the administration wants to wait until an internal review of the state’s overall oyster management policies is completed. That review is due in July.
“We’re still committed to Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration,” Schatz said. “It’s a good time to take a pause, take a breather, and reboot in July.”
Matthew A. Clark, the governor's communications director, said Wednesday that the State House had not overridden DNR in granting the watermen's request for delay.
"Gov. Hogan, Lt. Gov.Rutherford and Secretary Belton are in full agreement that a brief pause of the Tred Avon project is a common sense measure as the department completes a critical review of overall oyster restoration efforts in the Bay," Clark said.
My policy, long stated, would be to halt all fishing on wild (nonaquaculture) oysters in the Bay for at least 5 and probably 10 years, to find out if, in the absence of harvest, oysters are capable of making a rebound in the Bay as it is today. If they are, fine, start restoration efforts (but monitor them well, to make sure they are effective) and start a very carefully regulated fishery. No fishery stock that is at a few percent of their historical levels should be subjected to the kind of fishery pressure that oysters are.