Hearing in Annapolis for Bill That Would Open Oyster Sanctuaries - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Hearing in Annapolis for Bill That Would Open Oyster Sanctuaries.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md.- Oysters are a way of life here on Delmarva. Watermen say House Bill 638 would give them more opportunities by opening up a new bottom to dredge.

"A dredge is like a rake on the natural oyster bars at the bottom of the bay, to turn them over much like a farmer tills a field. You have to turn over the oysters to expose natural shell because that's how oysters reproduce," said Chip MacLeod, a representative for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

Opening a new bottom would give the current bars watermen have been working a break.

"We can set up a rotation plan with new bottom. We don't have enough bottom at the present time to rotate it.But we can put a rotation method where we can set a place aside every four years before you harvest oysters on it again," said Robert T Brown, president of the Maryland Watermen's Association.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is concerned though that this bill tilts the fishery too much in favor of the watermen and not enough for other stakeholders.

"I think this bill was conceived in a small room and not with all the technical background that we really need, and the interaction and the dialogue from the scientific community and various stakeholders," said Bill Goldsborough with the Bay Foundation.

The Department of Natural Resources is also hesitant.

"It increases the amount of area that's open for power dredging, and we understand there's a difference of opinion on whether that's beneficial or harmful, and we'd rather wait until those studies are back before we make a decision on that," said Dave Goshorn with the DNR.

Places where the state has done restoration projects, like Harris Creek and the Little Choptank, would remain out of bounds to watermen.
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