Maryland DNR Looking to Dredge Shoal for Shells - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland DNR Looking to Dredge Shoal for Shells

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Shells are considered by many watermen to be the best base for oysters in the bay. (Photo: WBOC) Shells are considered by many watermen to be the best base for oysters in the bay. (Photo: WBOC)

CAMBRIDGE, Md.- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has a new proposal to give some much needed oyster shells to watermen and to the aquaculture industry. DNR wants to dredge fossilized shells from a prehistoric bar, known as Man-O-War Shoals in Baltimore County, to use a base to grow new oysters.

"The biggest limiting factor we have is not enough oyster shell to place oysters on.  We need shells.  Man-O-War Shoals has oyster shell, so we're applying for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge and put those shells back in the bay," said Dave Goshorn with the DNR.

Scott Todd, president of the Dorchester Seafood Harvester's Association agrees, and is supporting the proposal.

"In the past five years we've taken maybe a million and a half bushels, maybe even close to 2 million bushels off the natural bars, and we're only putting back an average of 20-50,000 a year back.  Do the math and eventually you're going to run out," said Todd.

But not all groups are in support.

"There's no way of knowing how many shells we would get.  We could get as little as 10 percent of what's there when they get it, or we may get a few more than that.  So I mean the problem is, it's just a bad business plan.  We don't know how much it's going to cost to dredge, we don't know how much of it is going to go to public bottom," said Robert T. Brown with the Maryland Watermen's Association.

All groups excited about the shells say they are glad the state is considering shells natural to the bay, not foreign shells like in past projects.

"We don't have the shucking houses here like we used to, so we don't have the fresh shell like we used to in the 70s, 80s, and so on," said Tom Bradshaw with the Clean Chesapeake Coalition.

The hope is by tapping this resource, which has been tapped before, oyster reproduction can soar.  The question is, will the permit be accepted, and who gets what amount of shell?

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