On February 24, 2009 the Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced the next phase of a project involving the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) and Chesapeake Bay watermen on the state’s oyster bar rehabilitation program. The project is part of a plan to help mitigate economic losses from the declining blue crab fishery, while also helping to restore the Chesapeake Bay.
“Together with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, Maryland is taking action to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay, while ensuring that watermen have opportunities to continue to thrive,” said Governor O’Malley. “We are especially thankful to our congressional delegation and Maryland General Assembly for supporting funding which enabled these sustainable measures to be put into action.”
For the next 12 weeks, about 475 watermen will work to recover and clean oyster bars in the Tangier Sound and the Patuxent, Choptank, Tred Avon, Wicomico and Severn Rivers. Watermen will use their boats and dredge equipment to remove silt and sediment from the tops of once historically healthy oyster bars in order to prepare them for a natural spat set and/or hatchery seed planting.
The oyster bar rehabilitation program began in November of 2008 and once complete will have provided at least 10 days of paid work to over 500 watermen. Every year, the Chesapeake Bay loses 2,600 acres of hard bottom oyster habitat. By the end of these projects watermen will have reclaimed shell on 1,000 acres of oyster reefs.