Maryland state has been doggedly trying to revive populations of the disease-enfeebled native oysters to accomplish two goals, says a HomeTownAppolis news report. Firstly: have the oysters improve the bay's water quality, and secondly: to maintain some remnant of the traditional oyster fishery.
Unfortunately, these goals conflict, says the news organisation. So far the state's dogged efforts to rebuild and reseed oyster reefs have merely put some oysters in the bay, so that the bulk of the surviving ones can be removed again by watermen. The oyster population isn't growing, water quality isn't improving and the fishery, at best, is on life-support.
Last month the state Oyster Advisory Committee pointed out the only logical course of action: Keep reseeding the oyster reefs but terminate most of the shellfish harvesting in the bay and the tributaries. Instead, encourage a shift to aquaculture - oyster farming.
Oysters raised in this way aren't going to directly help water quality. The point is that shifting the oyster industry to controlled production in a few spots may make it possible for the state to both produce more oysters and to ban oystering over large stretches of the bay and its tributaries. If all goes well - given the problems with disease, there's no guarantee - those unmolested oysters might be able to reproduce and improve water quality.
It's a shift in direction, but it makes more sense than continuing with the same policy and somehow expecting better results. The first step should be to pass the governor's aquaculture bill.
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