For about 60 years, Maryland watermen have been performing their own version of oyster restoration on public fishery grounds, said Talbot County Watermen’s Association President Bunky Chance.That sounds like a lot, but it's a big bay.
That effort is currently underway. A quarter of a million bushels of shell from shucking houses and 50,000 bushels of oyster seed from private hatcheries are currently being planted on Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Anne Arundel and Calvert counties public fishery bottom.
Chance said their restoration method costs the state’s taxpayers nothing, because it’s funded through taxes, fees and surcharges watermen pay, split with a contract through the Maryland Department of Transportation. Chance also said the watermen’s oyster replenishment efforts ends up benefitting the state’s economy, as it adds oysters into the public fishery.Is the oyster fishery in better shape than it was 60 years ago when the program was started? No.
“That’s 60 years of habitat restoration at $1 million and a half to $2 million a year, and if you look at the number of oysters that’s on public fishery bottom compared to those sanctuaries, it’s the same amount of oysters,” Chance said.
Many watermen are critical of the state and federal oyster restoration plan to create oyster sanctuaries that are closed to harvest.
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.
The watermen's plan is basically to plant a few areas using state money, and then fish the shit out of them, rinse and repeat. It's basically the oyster equivalent of put-and-take trout fishing, which at least has the benefit of recreation. Oyster harvesting is just dirty drudge work.
But if that's what they want to spend their money on, fine. Let them spend their own capital (let's not launder it through the state), plant their own oysters, and then fight over who gets to them first.