by Alicia Pimental
January 16, 2008
Maryland's Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) recently submitted an interim report to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, the Maryland General Assembly and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin concerning the state's oyster management program.
Using the latest scientific information available, the OAC reached consensus on a “possible vision for what a healthy oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay might look like and what functions it would serve in the 21st century.”
With Bay oyster populations at a mere 1 percent of their historic levels, the OAC offered findings that are intended to provide direction to help restore the Bay's most important bivalve. These findings include:
- Oyster restoration is a critical component of restoring and preventing further degradation of our Bay. Maryland has a clear role in restoring the ecological function of an abundant and self-sustaining oyster population.
- A successful self sustaining, ecologically strategic, and enforced large oyster sanctuary program is essential to restoring the ecological function of oysters in Chesapeake Bay.
- More restrictive harvest measures, including a moratorium, alone will not restore oysters and their ecological benefits. The state needs to commit significant and sustained resources focused on rehabilitating natural oyster bars, significantly minimizing disease impacts and addressing water quality issues throughout the Bay watershed.
- The state's role in the oyster industry is to manage the resource sustainably and prevent overfishing. Every major oyster-producing area in the world is based on some degree of privatization. It is possible for the state to provide incentives and resources to facilitate the transition of Maryland 's traditional state-private and largely “put-and-take” oyster fishery to a privatized industry.
- An increase in annual funding from the current $5 million will be needed during at least the first 10 years to support a revitalized Maryland oyster restoration program. Oyster restoration programs should include increased hatchery production and oyster bar habitat rehabilitation, oyster population monitoring, oyster bar habitat mapping and characterization, and overall research and enforcement.
The OAC is comprised of 21 scientists, watermen, anglers, businessmen, economists, environmental advocates and elected officials. The commission's sole purpose is to advise the state of Maryland on matters relating to oysters and strategies for rebuilding and managing the oyster population in Maryland 's portion of the Bay.