Oyster Industry Leaders Compromise for Oyster Futures - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Oyster Industry Leaders Compromise for Oyster Futures

Posted: Jun 08, 2018 6:50 PM Updated:

TILGHMAN ISLAND, Md. - Oysters in Maryland could be making a comeback - thanks to industry leaders putting aside differences and finding compromise. The Oyster Futures program is a new group made up of 18 industry stakeholders, including watermen, environmentalists, scientists, and business owners. The goal is to replenish oyster numbers in the Chesapeake Bay.

Out of over 100 options the group considered, Oyster Futures now has 29 recommendations for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources.

It was a process taking stakeholders like Jeff Harrison, president of the Talbot Waterman's Association and one of six watermen represented in the group, more than two years to complete.

"Some of the things we came up with I agree with and some I don't, but that's the way that process works," Harrison said.

Harrison says there were some wins for the watermen in the process, including recommendations to allow hand-tonging in oyster sanctuaries as well as limited entries for new watermen to keep competition fresh.

And for environmentalists, like Kelley Cox, who was also a part of the group, recommendations, like hand-tonging in sanctuaries, weren't terrible ideas at all.

"It was the best process I've ever been through," Cox said. "I think it would help the population if we were able to do that and hand-tonging is a great way to do that because it doesn't take everything off the bottom."

It's compromise hoping to help oyster restoration efforts and resulting in improved populations.

"It's good to be able to sit down with people and and let them know your point of view," Harrison said.

Some watermen outside the group, like Robert Newberry of the Delmarva Fisheries Association, say there were some recommendations he did not like, including things like enhanced state enforcement. Newberry says the money to funding the Oyster Futures should be used for other programs replenishing oysters, like the watermen's Shell & Seed Restoration Program.

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