Maryland Watermen Head to Annapolis for Oyster Bill Hearing - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Watermen Head to Annapolis for Oyster Bill Hearing

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Watermen gathered to testify against a bill that would require a study of the oyster population (Photo:WBOC) Watermen gathered to testify against a bill that would require a study of the oyster population (Photo:WBOC)

ANNAPOLIS, Md.-  They were lined up in the hallway. More than 200 watermen, and standing room only in the committee room.  By many accounts, it was the largest group of watermen to come to Annapolis in the past few years.  It's all to push back against an oyster bill that environmental groups say is absolutely necessary for the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

"I think it shows that everybody is against it.  All the watermen from all across the bay have come out to be against it," waterman Jordan Coffman told WBOC.

The goal of the bill is to have the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science find the biological reference points for oysters in the bay.

"That pretty much is a fancy way of saying that we know how many oysters there are, so that when we catch a million bushels of them, we will know if that is one percent, ten percent, or all of them for that matter," said Doug Myers, Maryland scientist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

That is data that Myers says doesn't exist right now.

"Most of the studies around oysters have been about their biology, and their reproduction, but never about their population," said Myers.

But watermen don't see this bill as a simple study.  The reason they turned out in droves, and missed out on a valuable day of work and pay, is because they are convinced that it threatens their livelihood,

"It's been studied for 35 years, and they haven't come up with anything in their opinion to fix it, and I don't think we need another study no matter who is doing it," said Scott Todd, president of the Dorchester County Seafood Harvesters Association.

The results of the study could determine how the fishery is managed.  If the species is considered overfished, there could potentially be more harvest cutbacks.

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