Oyster Sustainability Bill Passes Maryland Senate - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Oyster Sustainability Bill Passes Maryland Senate

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(Photo:WBOC) (Photo:WBOC)

CAMBRIDGE, Md.- A bill passed Wednesday in the Maryland senate calls for the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences, or UMCES, to conduct a study of the public oyster fishery.  While the study is aimed at ensuring sustainable harvest is taking place, some are concerned about how the study would be carried out.

It seems like the Chesapeake Bay has been studied constantly over the past few decades.  Montgomery County Democrat Senator Roger Manno, sponsor of the bill, told WBOC that this study is needed to ensure oyster overfishing is not taking place

"We're just trying to get our arms around what the best path forward is in maintaining the integrity of the harvest and maintaining the fishery for generations to come," said Sen. Manno.

But Scott Todd, president of the Dorchester Seafood Harvester's Association, has his concerns about one group alone managing this study.

"It gives the power to one group to potentially shut us down, that's what is really scary to us," said Todd.

He calls the bill a "doomsday bill" since it could further limit what he says is already a highly restricted fishery.

"I think that they have some very legitimate concerns when it comes to the sustainability of the fishery, but we think that UMCES is the best place to begin that science and that data collection," said Sen. Manno.

But UMCES feels that they aren't up to the full task either.  In their testimony for the bill, they said while they were up to the challenge of determining if overfishing is occurring, they said "We believe it would be seen as a significant conflict to both determine if the fishery is overfished and then convene the development of recommendations for management strategies."

UMCES also said that they didn't believe they had the finances to conduct such a study.  Despite the testimony, the bill still passed through the senate by a wide margin.

"It's really scary to me and a lot of other people.  We're just hoping when it comes up again in the house that it gets squashed," said Todd.

The bill has not yet had a public hearing in the house.  If passed as it is written, UMCES would not only have to provide the data, but also possible solutions to any problem that is found.  The bill says that those options could include rotational harvesting, and input from stakeholders like the watermen would be necessary in Maryland.

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