Report: Oyster Population Down 50 Percent Since 1999; Watermen D - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Report: Oyster Population Down 50 Percent Since 1999; Watermen Disagree

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NANTICOKE, Md.- 'Tis the season for oysters and Maryland environmentalists say there aren't enough. But Eastern Shore watermen say this year's harvest is shaping up to be one of their best seasons yet.

They hauled them by the bushel early Monday morning. Many are claiming the oysters are so plentiful, they're able to catch their legal limit within just a few hours.

For Harrison Spurry, it's a most wonderful time of year to harvest.

"We've got more little ones than we've had in the last five years," Spurry said.

Watermen say there are lots of baby oysters too - a sign future seasons could also be fruitful.

"It's the best year I'd say in the last 7 or 8 years given the amount of oysters we can harvest," Wicomico County watermen Keith Bradley said.

But oyster numbers are down more than 50 percent from two decades ago, dropping an estimated 600 million in 1999 to 300 million in a recent Maryland stock assessment.

Watermen say not so.

"If (environmentalists) could come out and see what we look at every day, maybe they would have a different aspect on it," Devin Tibbs, a Dorchester County waterman, said.

Watermen say this season, and more yet to come, show oyster populations are down but are still holding up.

"The last five years show it's been down a little bit, but it's Mother Nature and it's going through a cycle," Bradley said.

Bradley credits dry weather for this year's plentiful oyster season, which opened Oct. 1 and ends March 31.

 

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