Study Projects Significant Choptank River Crab, Perch Harvests T - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Study Projects Significant Choptank River Crab, Perch Harvests Thanks to Oyster Reef Restoration

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CAMBRIDGE, Md. - Big progress could be headed towards the Choptank River. Both crab and perch populations as well as harvests are expected to increase significantly according to a new study. But the study stirs up age-long debate, especially with watermen who doubt all the money used to make it happen is worth it.

The study, from Morgan State University's PEARL program, says crab harvests could increase by 80-percent and white perch harvests by 110-percent as soon as 2025. Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta says it's all thanks restored oyster reefs like in Harris Creek. The reefs bring back critical habitat and attract marine life that could net more potential for harvests, according to the study.

"We can get there if we continue doing this type of work," Pluta said. "If you think about it, the more crabs we have and the more perch we have, the more fishermen that are going to come to the area. Our hotels, our tourism are going to have a bigger boost because of that. It's just better overall for the area."

But the study's supposedly main beneficiaries including watermen like Norman Schuyler say the time and money spent should go elsewhere. Schuyler and many others believe the money should be spent putting more natural oyster shell back into the Chesapeake Bay.

"You can improve things without spending that kind of money," Schuyler said. "There's a smarter way to use the money. It's good to use towards the Bay, but they need to spread it out a little bit and include other groups."

The study says dock-side sales revenues could increase as much as $4.5 million per year with restored oyster reefs.

In addition to Harris Creek, Maryland is also working to restore reefs in the Little Choptank and Tred Avon Rivers. If and when finished, the total 964 acres of reefs are expected to cost nearly $72 million.

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