Friday, December 28, 2018

Maryland to Blow $3 Million on Oyster Restoration

$3 million approved for oyster recovery
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been approved to invest more than $3 million in oyster recovery and restoration activities in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, following unanimous support from the Board of Public Works.

The board, consisting of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, approved three contracts to the Oyster Recovery Partnership aimed at collecting oyster shell, constructing oyster reefs and planting hatchery-reared oysters, according to a DNR news release.

“Through this funding we will continue to enhance and rehabilitate native oyster habitat and populations in Chesapeake Bay,” Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “These contracts are key to reestablishing a self-sustaining oyster population and meeting our watershed goals.”

One contract will construct and restore oyster reefs in direct support of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement that calls on Maryland to restore native oyster habitat and populations in five tributaries by 2025. In Maryland, these large-scale restoration projects are focused in Harris Creek — which has been completed — as well as the Little Choptank, Manokin, Tred Avon and Upper St. Mary’s rivers.

Another contract will fund construction and restoration of oyster reefs in support of the department’s new initiative to enhance oyster restoration efforts in other state sanctuaries beyond the five large-scale projects, namely the Nanticoke and Severn rivers.

An additional contract will aid the Marylanders Grow Oysters program to construct and restore oyster reefs in sanctuaries. A minimum of 6 million hatchery oysters will be produced and delivered to participating waterfront residents throughout Maryland in support of this community-driven oyster recovery and restoration effort.
Despite all the ongoing oyster restoration efforts, oyster populations in Maryland waters (as reflected in landings) are about half of what they were in 2014:

Maryland Public Fishery Commercial Oyster Landings  since 2000

and the dockside value of that harvest is barely twice the cost of the oyster restoration efforts:

Estimated dockside values of Maryland public fishery commercial oyster landings
Remind me again, why are we spending this money?

Fritz's oyster restoration program. Forbid harvest of "wild" (planted) oysters for 5-10 years, without any new restoration efforts. If oysters show significant ability to rebound in today's Chesapeake Bay, continue to protect them until they reach the desired density, and then allow carefully controlled harvest. I'm sure that aquaculture will take up the slack in the meantime.

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