ANNAPOLIS, Md.- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has set the dates, times and locations for four public regulatory hearings as part of the implementation of Gov. Martin O'Malley's Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Plan.
O'Malley and DNR submitted the proposed regulations in May after months of public discussion, DNR open houses and robust input from thousands of citizens following the governor's announcement of the plan in December 2009.
"We stand on the threshold of implementing a plan that was called for by the very first oyster advisory commission in the 1800s, but was never achieved," O'Malley said. "We need to change course and take bold action to rebuild our oyster population—both for its ecological value and for the jobs and economic impact that an expanded aquaculture industry will provide for Maryland families for generations to come."
In January, O'Malley sponsored legislation to promote oyster restoration and aquaculture in Maryland by streamlining the regulatory process, expanding oyster sanctuaries in the bay and opening areas to aquaculture to reduce the pressure on wild oysters and to provide alternative economic opportunities for Maryland watermen. The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the General Assembly.
The Chesapeake Bay's oyster population has languished at 1 percent of historic levels since 1994, quality oyster bars have decreased by 80 percent and the number of harvesters has dwindled from 2,000 in the mid-1980s to just over 500 annually since 2002. Today there are only eight oyster processing companies in Maryland, down from 58 in 1974.
These public events will feature an overview of the proposed regulations by DNR staff followed by opportunities for individual comments. Comments may also be submitted online at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to:
MD-DNR Fisheries Service
Tawes State Office Bldg
580 Taylor Ave. B-2
Annapolis, MD 21401
The public hearings are scheduled as follows:
To view the full Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Plan, go to www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/oysters/pdfs/OysterOpenHouseFINAL2a.pdf
A concise overview of the proposed regulations is located at www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/oysters/OysterRestoration&AquacultureDevelopmentProposedRegulationsFactsheet.pdf.