Maryland Opens 2019 Oyster Management Plan for Public Comment, D - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Opens 2019 Oyster Management Plan for Public Comment, Drawing Debate

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Credit: Maryland DNR Credit: Maryland DNR

CAMBRIDGE, Md. - Maryland has released a new draft plan to manage oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The draft says oyster populations are on the decline, attributing the drop to a number of factors, including harvest pressure, lack of habitat and reduced water quality.

To fix those issues, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says they need to do a couple of things, like rotate areas oystermen can harvest in. The plan also suggests transplanting big quantities of young seed oysters to poor growing areas and then replenishing those areas with more oyster shells that have young seedlings on them.

But demands for that currently exceed production and funding.

Since releasing the draft plan earlier this year, Maryland has now opened the plan up for public comment. Plenty of people have opinions already on it, including Chesapeake Bay Foundation scientist Allison Colden, who says the plans outlines are far from enough.

"Thee current level of fishing is not sustainable," Colden said. "Rebuilding the oyster population is an explicit goal that we'd like to see achieved."

Colden says the latest stock assessment shows oyster populations are at historic lows. That's why Colden argues the plan needs explicit and sufficient regulations to address declining oyster populations.

But watermen like Rob Newberry say the plan's on par, accounting for oysters and watermen livelihoods.

"The Chesapeake Bay Foundation doesn't like what?" Newberry said. "This is going to help the watermen, it's going to help the Bay, and it's going to help the environment."

The plan gives Maryland DNR the power of public notice - a 48-hour period for timed and bushel limits. They're limits Colden says factors little public input and ultimately goals to save oysters.

But watermen like Newberry say they've suffered far too long, squeezed out of sanctuaries and areas they should be able to harvest. Colden disagrees.

"Our goal is not to end oystering and not to end people's way of lives," Colden said.

The public comment period for Maryland's latest oyster management plan ends July 22.


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