Maryland Bill Aims to Convert Five Bay Waterways into Permanent - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Bill Aims to Convert Five Bay Waterways into Permanent Oyster Sanctuaries

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Credit: Maryland DNR Credit: Maryland DNR

BOZMAN, Md. - A new bill now making its way through Annapolis could change the fate of millions of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.

House Bill 298, a bill Speaker of the House Michael Busch is pushing, would convert five bay waterways into permanent oyster sanctuaries. Environmentalists say the bill could save the Bay, but some Eastern Shore watermen, like Bunky Chance of Talbot County, worry their jobs and the health of the Bay could be at risk, stopping oyster harvests from clearing space for new oysters to plant and grow.

"It has been just short of devastating," Chance said. "Good fisheries management practices, i.e. the watermen only taking a small percentage of the adults, gives the rest of the biomass time to reproduce. It works hand in glove."

Chance worries the bill would bring economic devastation to the area, leaving hundreds of watermen along the Eastern Shore jobless.

But Alan Girard of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation argues the alternatives, like oyster farming, could save watermen and bring relief to oysters in the Bay.

"Oyster farming provides a great way forward," Girard said. "Oysters are great filters so that's great for water clarity, great for underwater grasses, that's great for wildlife habitat and great for all Marylanders who enjoy a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay."

Girard says experiments, like man-made concrete and oysters already growing in places like Harris Creek, prove sanctuaries work.

The five waterways named in House Bill 298 are part of Maryland's commitment to the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

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