Posts Tagged ‘shellfish’

Maryland 2013 Fall Oyster Survey

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Results of Maryland’s 2013 Fall Oyster Survey indicate populations are continuing to increase. The oyster population has more than doubled since 2010, reaching its highest point since this type of monitoring began in 1985.

The upswing was driven by high oyster survival over the past few years as well as strong reproduction in 2010 and 2012. As a result, oyster harvests have increased, with watermen quickly reaching their daily catch limits during the early part of the season.

“Preliminary harvest reports for the past season have already surpassed 400,000 bushels – with a dockside value in excess of $13 million – the highest in at least 15 years,” said DNR Secretary Joe Gill. “Coupled with the survey results, we have reason to be cautiously optimistic a sustainable oyster population can once again play a vital role in the Bay’s ecosystem and Maryland’s economy.”

In one of the longest running such programs in the world, Maryland has monitored the status of the State’s oyster population through annual field surveys since 1939. The surveys track relative oyster population abundance, reproduction, disease and annual mortality rates, and offer a window into future population levels.

According to the survey, at 92 percent, oyster samples revealed the highest survival rate (the number of oysters found alive in a sample), since 1985 when these measurements began. The Maryland Oyster Biomass Index, a measure of the oyster population, was also the highest since 1985. Oyster reproduction was slightly above the 29-year midpoint, but was largely confined to the lower portion of the Bay.

Oyster diseases remain at relatively low levels. Dermo was below the long-term average for the eleventh consecutive year, with levels similar to 2012, but, continues to be widely distributed throughout Maryland waters. MSX increased slightly from the record-low levels of 2011 and 2012, but remains well below the long-term average.

The survey shows that natural mortality rates within oyster sanctuaries were similar to adjacent harvest areas.

source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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2014 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

The 2014 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey results indicate that female blue crab populations in the Chesapeake Bay have declined below minimum levels, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The abundance of spawning-age females was estimated to be 69 million, below the minimum safe level of 70 million.

While the crabbing harvest remained at a safe level for the sixth consecutive year, and juvenile crabs increased 78 percent from 2013’s record low, the total abundance of crabs — which include juveniles, and adult males and females – has returned to pre-2008 levels of approximately 300 million.

The results illustrate the inherent variability of the Blue Crab population and the ever-present complexities of managing this dynamic fishery. There are a suite of environmental factors that could be contributing to the low crab abundance, including the unusually cold winter, coastal currents, weather patterns and natural predators.

The long cold winter appears to be one cause of the low abundance level. Low water temperatures resulted in one of the worst cold-kill events since the start of the survey in 1990, causing the death of an estimated 28 percent of adult crabs in Maryland.

The decline in spawning age females will be the biggest factor in determining new management actions by Maryland, Virginia and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission to increase reproductive potential in 2014 and 2015.

DNR and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science have conducted the primary assessment of the Bay’s Blue Crab population annually since 1990. The survey employs crab dredges to sample Blue Crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay from December through March.

The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee, supported by NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, is reviewing the data; their 2014 Blue Crab Advisory Report is expected to be released in early summer.

Complete survey results are available at dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/crab/dredge.asp.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

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2013 Maryland Oyster Spat Production

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

In October, Governor Martin O’Malley announced that the State and its partners produced and planted a record number of native baby oysters (spat) in 2013.

The University of Maryland Horn Point Lab Oyster Hatchery team in Cambridge set a new national record with the production of 1.25 billion Eastern oyster spat this year.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s oyster cultivation facility at Horn Point is a focal point for oyster restoration and research in Maryland and the region.

Harris Creek Sanctuary received 750 million baby oysters, with help from a number of State, federal and private partners. At 377 acres, Harris Creek Sanctuary is the largest restoration project of its kind on the East Coast.

To target restoration efforts, State and federal agencies worked together to prioritize and establish sanctuaries in the most promising areas of the Bay, expanding protected waters from 9 to 24 percent in 2010.

Harris Creek was chosen for the initial large-scale restoration project because its water quality, salinity levels, shape and location all point to a high likelihood of success.

source: MD DNR

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2013 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Overall abundance of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs dropped from 765 million to 300 million crabs, according to the 2013 Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey.

Juvenile crabs declined from 581 million to 111 million. The number of spawning-age females increased from 95 million to 147 million, well above the healthy-abundance threshold of 70 million.

Officials cite poor reproduction in 2013 and possible high mortality within the 2012 year-class as contributing factors to an overall decline in the Bay-wide population.

The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee is reviewing the data and will begin drafting their 2013 Blue Crab Advisory Report over the next few weeks.

In response to the Blue Crab Winter Dredge Survey, Maryland, Virginia, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) are pursuing strategies to reduce the harvest of female crabs by approximately 10 percent.

The Virginia blue crab winter dredge fishery has been closed since 2008 and is expected to remain closed for the upcoming season.

sources: Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Virginia Marine Resources Commission

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2012 Maryland Fall Oyster Survey Results

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Results of Maryland’s 2012 Fall Oyster Survey show that oyster population and reproduction increased for the second consecutive year, and diseases, which decimated the oyster population in 2002, remained far below their long-term averages.

Maryland has monitored the status of the State’s oyster population through annual field surveys since 1939.

The survey tracks reproduction levels, disease levels and annual mortality rates, and offers a window into future population levels.

The 2012 Fall Oyster Survey found:

* Oyster samples had a 93 percent survival rate (highest since 1985)

* Oyster abundance increased for the second consecutive year (highest level since 1999)

* Oyster reproduction improved

* Prevalence for MSX disease set a record-low

* Dermo disease increased moderately from its record-low of 2011

source: MD DNR

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Zebra Mussels Found in Upper Chesapeake Bay

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Invasive zebra mussels have been found in the upper Chesapeake Bay. On December 3, Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists found young zebra mussels attached to buoys off Havre de Grace. DNR is asking boaters and anglers to be on the lookout for this harmful, invasive mussel.

Twenty live zebra mussels were found attached to the concrete anchor blocks for three channel marker buoys. DNR personnel discovered the mussels when the buoys were removed from the water for cleaning and winter storage.

DNR advises mariners who use the lower Susquehanna River and upper Bay to help prevent these harmful zebra mussels from spreading to other Maryland waters by taking several following precautions before launching and leaving the area:

- Remove all aquatic plants and mud from boats, motors, and trailers; and put the debris in trash containers.

- Drain river water from boat motors, bilges, live wells, bait buckets and coolers before leaving, to prevent these aquatic hitchhikers from riding along.

- Dispose of unused live bait on shore, far from the river or Bay or in trash containers.

-  Rinse boats, motors, trailers, live wells, bait buckets, coolers and scuba gear with high pressure or hot water between trips to different water bodies.

- Dry everything at least two days (preferably five days) between outings.

- Limit boating from place to place – particularly between the Susquehanna and upper Bay to other water bodies in Maryland

The agnecy is also asking that people who live and work on the water keep an eye out for zebra mussels and call 410-260-8615 if they find anything suspicious.

Non-native, invasive zebra mussels were first found in Maryland in late 2008 at two locations in the Susquehanna River: the Conowingo Dam and further upstream at Glen Cove Marina, Harford County.

Sporadic sightings since then indicate establishment of a zebra mussel population in the lower river and downstream dispersal, but no apparent rapid increase in abundance.

source: MD DNR

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2011 Marylanders Grow Oysters Program

Monday, March 14th, 2011

River coordinators from 13 of 18 Chesapeake Bay participating tributaries met on March 2 with Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff on Kent Island to prepare for the Marylanders Grow Oysters summer growing season.

The 13 local program sponsors, managers from the DNR Fisheries Service shellfish division and the Oyster Recovery Partnership spent the day discussing the results of the past three years, the benefits of the program for oysters and for the Bay citizenry, and how the program can be improved.

Coordinators shared their experiences and advice with one another to improve their efforts and methods. They also discussed logistics for the collection of oysters this summer, which will be planted in local sanctuaries. Last summer, approximately 1.9 million oysters were grown by the volunteer growers and were planted in sanctuaries.

Through the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, citizen volunteers tend to young oysters growing in wire mesh cages suspended from private piers for their first year of life. The oyster spat and cages are provided by DNR and other program partners at no charge to the volunteers. The oysters require minimal care – mostly rinsing the cages every two weeks.

Citizen oyster growers enjoy the personal rewards of stewardship and learn about oysters while contributing to the enhancement of an oyster reef in their local tributary. The year-old oysters are collected and planted in a local oyster sanctuary, and a new group of young oysters is distributed to participating growers to start the process again.

In more good news for Maryland’s native oyster, DNR’s most recent oyster survey showed promising results. The number of spat or baby oysters in Maryland waters is at its highest level since 1997, the survival rate for young oysters is also up and more Marylanders are looking to start up or expand aquaculture businesses.

Governor O’Malley launched the program in 2008 with nearly 900 oyster cages along the Tred Avon River. DNR expanded the program with various oyster partners and now about 8,000 cages, tended by approximately 1,500 growers, are located in 18 tributaries. The oyster cages are built by Maryland inmates at Maryland Correctional Enterprises in Hagerstown and the Eastern Pre-Release Unit in Church Hill. Additional inmates assist with oyster spat production at the DNR hatchery in St. Mary’s County.

The Marylanders Grow Oysters Program is managed by the DNR in conjunction with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science which produces the majority of the spat, and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

For more information about Marylanders Grow Oysters visit oysters.maryland.gov

source: MD DNR

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Maryland Re-Opens Aquaculture Financing Loan Program to New Applicants

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Maryland has announced that its new shellfish aquaculture financing program will be accepting a second round of applications between January 2 and January 31, 2011. The program received 16 applications totaling more than $1.3 million during the first round, which closed on November 30.

There is a total of $2.2 million currently available for the program, which is a cooperative effort among the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA), the University of the Maryland Sea Grant Extension (UME) and the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO).

“We are very pleased with the original response to this program, which we created to provide affordable financing to watermen and other individuals starting or expanding commercial shellfish aquaculture operations,” said Governor O’Malley. “This second application period will allow those who were unable to meet the original deadline another opportunity to participate.”

The new shellfish aquaculture loan program is a subsidized program with principal payments returning to a revolving fund to support additional shellfish aquaculture funding needs in the future. The loan program offers partial loan forgiveness for borrowers meeting certain performance conditions. MARBIDCO is pricing the loans at a fixed annual interest rate not to exceed 4.5 percent. A Shellfish Aquaculture Financing Committee, including representatives from DNR, MDA, UME, a Maryland farm credit association, and MARBIDCO, has been established to evaluate applications and proposed business plans.

As with the first round of funding, MARBIDCO and DNR intend to give priority to applicants who will begin shellfish production operations in 2011. Those who plan shellfish production operations in 2011 must hold a DNR shellfish aquaculture lease, or must have applied to DNR for a shellfish aquaculture lease by no later than 5:00 p.m., January 31, 2010.

More than two-thirds of the funding for the program comes from a federal blue crab fishery disaster allocation for Maryland. The National Marine Fisheries Service award, which was requested by Governor O’Malley and advocated for by Senator Mikulski and Maryland’s congressional delegation in 2008, has supported a variety of watermen work programs as well as a program to retire inactive commercial limited crab catcher licenses. Additional funds are being provided by DNR to supplement the federal funding.

To begin the application process, interested parties may contact Karl Roscher of the Maryland Aquaculture Coordinating Office (MDA) at 410-841-5724. An application and aquaculture business planning template are available at www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/oysters/industry/funding.asp.

source: MD DNR press release

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Maryland to Provide Subsidized Shellfish Aquaculture Loans

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

A new Maryland program will provide subsidized loans to business owners interested in launching or expanding commercial shellfish aquaculture operations in Maryland.

Of the State’s $10.6 million oyster restoration budget for fiscal year 2011, $2.2 million in subsidized loans will be available for aquaculture projects through a partnership between the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO).

Maryland now offers a mix of State and Federal funding to support a revolving loan fund administered by MARBIDCO. The University of Maryland Extension (UME) and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) are also contributing to this effort, providing training and business planning assistance to current and prospective shellfish growers.

More than two-thirds of the funding for the program comes from a $15 million federal blue crab fishery disaster allocation to Maryland. The National Marine Fisheries Service award, which was requested by Governor O’Malley and advocated for by Senator Mikulski and Maryland’s congressional delegation in 2008, has supported a variety of watermen work programs as well as a program to retire inactive commercial limited crab catcher licenses.

Enacted in September, Maryland’s Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development plan increases Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries from 9 percent to 24 percent of remaining quality habitat; increases areas open to leasing for oyster aquaculture and streamlines the permitting process; and maintains 76 percent of the Bay’s remaining quality oyster habitat for a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically managed public oyster fishery.

Shellfish aquaculture startup expenses can run from $5,000 to more than $100,000 depending on the scope of the enterprise. Obtaining a loan from traditional commercial lenders for aquaculture business projects can be challenging for small enterprises and individuals considering the two- to three-year growing period between oyster planting and growth to market size, as well as frequently the lack of available business equity and collateral security.

“This is a good start and I am glad the Governor has dedicated this initial funding to help watermen and others who are interested in pursuing aquaculture and a new business venture,” said Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.  “We have a lot to learn in this phase of the oyster arena and it appears we have men and their families who may be willing to try to make a go of it. Any financial help from the State will make it that much more doable.”

Maryland’s new aquaculture loan program is a subsidized program with all principal payments returning to a revolving fund to support an additional round of future funding.  The loan program also offers a partial loan forgiveness element for borrowers meeting certain performance conditions. MARBIDCO is pricing the loans at a fixed annual interest rate not to exceed 4.5 percent.

The State is establishing a Shellfish Aquaculture Financing Committee ? including representatives from DNR, MDA, UME, a Maryland farm credit association and MARBIDCO ? to evaluate applications and proposed business plans.

Because the demand for funding is expected to exceed short term financial resources, MARBIDCO and DNR intend to give priority to applicants who will begin shellfish production operations in 2011. Those who plan shellfish production operations next year must hold a DNR shellfish aquaculture lease, or must have applied to DNR for a shellfish aquaculture lease by no later than 5:00 p.m., Monday, November 15, 2010.   Applications for financial assistance are now being accepted by MARBIDCO, and the deadline for applications to be submitted is Tuesday, November 30, 2010.

Maryland’s FY 2011 oyster restoration budget of $10.6 million will be allocated as follows:

* $2.48 million for aquaculture development — training, technical support, loan program;

* $3.72 million for sanctuary program / ecological restoration — habitat rehabilitation, hatchery seed oysters, MGO program, program management;

* $1.53 million indirect operational support for all programs — bottom surveys, monitoring and assessment, supportive services, staff, enforcement, buoy placement and maintenance; and

* $2.91 million for management of the public oyster fishery — habitat rehabilitation, seed oysters, program management.

A shellfish aquaculture financing program application form, aquaculture business planning template, fact sheet and checklist of required submission items is available at www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/oysters/industry/funding.asp.

Information about the financing program and starting an aquaculture business in Maryland can also be obtained from the MDA Aquaculture Coordinating Office at (410) 841-5724.

Information concerning shellfish aquaculture leases may be obtained by calling Steve Schneider of the DNR Fisheries Services at (410) 260-8329.

source: MD DNR

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October is Maryland Seafood Month

Friday, October 1st, 2010

In conjunction with National Seafood Month, Maryland officials have declared October “Maryland Seafood Month.”

“Seafood is one of Maryland’s greatest family traditions and part of our identity. Generations of hard-working watermen make their living from the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries and people come from far and wide to enjoy the delicious finfish and shellfish they catch,” said Governor O’Malley. “Purchasing Maryland seafood also stimulates the local economy by supporting local watermen, aqua farmers, processors, and countless others involved with the Maryland seafood industry. Maryland Seafood Month’ is as much a tribute to Maryland’s seafood ‘family’ as it is a celebration of our greatest natural resource.”

Maryland’s blue crabs are at their largest in the fall, after having grown all summer. They also have not shed their shell since late September, which makes them very full and heavy. An abundant supply of large crabs is available at seafood markets at very reasonable prices. The large supply has lowered the price dramatically and consumers should take advantage of prices of the very large crabs now and enjoy hot and spicy Maryland blue crabs on a crisp autumn weekend. Hold a half-time crab feast or tailgate party. Just line your serving area with plastic then cover with newspapers for easy clean-up. Or serve chilled steamed Maryland blue crabs.

Seafood quality and safety has been, and continues to be, another Maryland tradition. Our seafood is monitored by several state agencies, local health departments and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These agencies conduct regular product and plant inspections and water tests ensuring that Maryland seafood is wholesome. In addition, Maryland crab meat undergoes a voluntary quality control and sanitation inspection. Maryland is the only state that has this extra level of inspection for crab meat. Such rigorous standards are another reason that Maryland crab meat is superior to all other crab meat in the world!

Maryland seafood is more than delicious. An excellent source of high quality protein, seafood is easily digested, generally low in fat, sodium and calories and high in important vitamins and minerals. In addition, seafood contains Omega-3 fatty acids, believed to be effective in lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease.

“Eating Maryland seafood is a delicious part of a healthy diet,” says Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “Maryland blue crabs are at their largest in the fall, after having grown all summer. October also signals the harvest of savory, plump oysters. Our world-famous state fish, striped bass, known locally as rockfish, is also a tasty and popular fall dish.”

When purchasing fish, look for signs of freshness and quality: bright, clear eyes, scales that adhere tightly to the skin, skin that springs back when lightly pressed, bright pink or red gills and a mild sea breeze scent. Crabs and oysters should be purchased live. Crabs should be lively and you should discard any dead crabs before cooking. Oysters purchased in the shell should have tightly-closed shells or should close when touched. Both types of shellfish should be cooked the same day as purchased. Always rinse finfish and shellfish with cold water before cooking. Cooked seafood, as with all cooked food, should not come into contact with or be stored in the same container as raw food. This is to protect from cross-contamination of bacteria that is normally found on raw food products. As with beef, poultry and pork, proper cooking kills bacteria in seafood. Careful clean up of preparation area and utensils is always important with all raw food products.

For tailgating or harvest gatherings, try these easy to transport Maryland crab recipes.

SOUTHWESTERN-STYLE CRAB WRAPS

1/3 cup slightly softened cream cheese
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 1/2 tablespoons mild or medium-hot picante sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped green onions or chives
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
16 ounces picked-over backfin crabmeat
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup very well drained bottled roasted sweet pepper or pimiento, chopped
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar or jack cheese
4 large (11 inch or similar) flour tortillas
About 8 large lettuce leaves

In a large bowl stir together cream cheese, mayonnaise, picante sauce, green onion, and Worcestershire sauce until well blended. Lightly fold in crab meat. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Dividing the mixture equally, spread it evenly over surface of tortillas. Pat roasted peppers dry with paper towels. Dividing equally, sprinkle them, along with the cheese, evenly over crab mixture. Pat lettuce leaves completely dry on paper towels. Lay lettuce leaves on tortillas, patching and tearing as necessary, to completely cover filling. Press down leaves to compact mixture as much as possible. Fold up one side of tortilla about 1 inch to form a bottom and hold filling.

Then, working from one perpendicular side, roll up tortilla neatly. If desired, cut crosswise across of the tortilla to trim off excess dough and to expose the roll-up filling. Tightly roll up wrap in wax paper, twist the paper ends to prevent unrolling. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Wraps can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until serving time. Remove from the refrigerator to warm up slightly before serving. Remove paper from around wraps just before serving. Make 4 burrito-size wraps.

Steamed Blue Crabs

½ Cup Seafood Seasoning
½ Cup Salt
3 Cups White Vinegar
3 Cups Beer (or water)
3 Dozen Live (and lively) Maryland Blue Crabs

Mix seasoning, vinegar and beer (or water) well. Put one-half crabs in very large pot with rack and TIGHT fitting lid. **Pour one-half of seasoning mixture over top. Add rest of crabs and remaining liquid. Steam, covered, until crabs turn bright red in color, about 20 to 30 minutes. Serve hot or cold. Make about 6 to 12 servings, depending upon size of crabs and other foods served.

** If two pots are used, layer crabs and measure seasoning mixture accordingly.

source: Maryland Department of Agriculture

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