More than 160 watermen, oyster leaseholders, anglers, conservationists, and other citizens turned out on January 7, for the Maryland Department of Resources’ (DNR) public presentation of the proposed Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development plan at the Easton. The DNR shellfish team assembled a 60-poster display to help guide visitors through the history of oystering and oyster management on the Bay and explain Governor Martin O’Malley’s recently-announced proposal.
“Maryland’s proposed oyster plan is a major change from past management approaches,” said DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O’Connell. “It is imperative that we provide the public the opportunity to understand the status of oysters and the oyster industry and to recognize our responsibility to protect the resource and manage the fishery sustainably for the citizens of Maryland. These open houses are excellent events for stakeholders to examine the details of the proposed regulations and to become familiar with the issues and concerns we have already taken into consideration. We are also soliciting new information for review prior to our submission of the regulatory proposal in February.”
The proposed plan will:
Increase Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries — from 9 percent to 24 percent of remaining quality habitat. Sanctuaries allow oysters to live longer, spawn without harvest pressure and, over time, develop natural resistance to disease. DNR is also undertaking a number of enforcement reforms, including a collaborative effort with federal partners to install a network of radars and cameras that will help Natural Resources Police monitor oyster sanctuaries and prevent poaching.
Increase areas open to leasing for oyster aquaculture and streamline the permitting process. This is based on the legislation Governor O’Malley sponsored in 2009 and unanimously approved by the General Assembly and will include the opening of 95,524 acres of natural oyster bars and hundreds of thousands of acres on the lower Eastern Shore to leasing.
Maintain 167,720 acres of natural oyster bars for the wild oyster fishery, including 76 percent of the Bay’s remaining quality oyster habitat. This will allow for continued support of a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically managed public oyster fishery.
At the 8-hour open house in Easton, 10 DNR staff along with representatives of the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Oyster Hatchery, Maryland Sea Grant and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, were on hand to provide answers and accept feedback.
This was the first of four public scoping meetings, each of which allows for public comment. The full presentation is also available on line at www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/oysters. Visitors should anticipate it taking about one hour to review the displays.
Additionally, public comments are can be made by email or regular mail, submitted at:
Attn: Oyster Open House
Tawes State Office Building
580 Taylor Ave
Annapolis, MD 21401
source: DNR press release