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New Oyster Sanctuaries Proposed

by the Fish Site Editor
04 December 2009, at 12:00am

US - In a move aimed at restoring the Chesapeake Bay's depleted oyster population, Governor Martin O'Malley has announced a major expansion of the state's existing patchwork of oyster sanctuaries, setting aside large stretches of rivers to protect the water-filtering shellfish from commercial harvest.

According to the TheBaltimoreSun the governor is also expected to spell out moves intended to boost the state's fledgling oyster aquaculture industry, identifying new areas around the bay open for leasing by those who want to try growing their own bivalves in floats, or on the bottom.

Governor O'Malley's press office has put out an advisory that he is scheduled to "make an important announcement regarding the health and future of the Chesapeake Bay" at the Annapolis Maritime Museum, on a tributary of the Severn River. Officials declined to provide details, but individuals briefed on the plan said the focus of the announcement is on overhauling the state's historic approach to managing oysters, shifting away from subsidizing the traditional wild fishery in favor of promoting private aquaculture.

A legislative advisory commission recommended those moves last year as the best bet for replenishing the bay's oysters, decimated to just one or two per cent of their historic levels by decades of overfishing, habitat loss and disease, reports TheBaltimoreSun. The panel called for "targeted ecological restoration," closing entire rivers or major portions to wild harvest while working to rebuild silted-over oyster reefs and populate them with new bivalves reared in state-run hatcheries.

Earlier this year, the Department of Natural Resources officials reported to the advisory commission that they were planning to set aside the entire Severn River as a sanctuary, as well as a large oyster bar in the lower Choptank River and Hoopers Strait in Dorchester County.

the Fish Site Editor