Aquaculture for all

Money Needed to Bring Oysters Back to Bay

MARYLAND,US - Restoring the oyster habitat in the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay will require increased enforcement by the state and an infusion of public and private funds.

This could be a difficult goal to achieve, given Maryland's financial crunch, watermen, scientists and political leaders agreed at a summit Friday.

Washington Post reports that in the mid-1800s, an average of 15 million bushels of oysters were caught annually in Maryland waters, said George R. Abbe, who has been studying oysters and crabs in the Patuxent River for 40 years. The yearly harvest declined to 2.5 million bushels between 1935 and 1985, he said. It dropped to below 1 million bushels in the late 1980s, when oysters began being wiped out by disease. "We never recovered from that," Abbe, a biologist with Morgan State University's Estuarine Research Center in St. Leonard, told the Post.

According to the news agency, since 2001, about 108 million oyster larvae, or spat, have been planted in sanctuaries, reserves and harvest bars in the bay area, Abbe said. Some of them disappear, leaving Abbe to assume they are being illegally harvested.

"We have this problem of need for enforcement, but at the same time there are cuts in state staff," Greer said.

Eric Schwaab, deputy secretary of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, agreed.

"For one thing, there is less money all around," Schwaab said. "I think you are going to see, over time, a focus of public dollars more on the restoration side of the equation. And then you are going to see a greater dependence on private investment to support the business side of the oyster world."

Schwaab said a state commission is looking into loosening laws related to aquaculture, making the growing "oyster ranching" business easier, among other things, Washington Post reports.

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