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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I put a question mark at the post title because I hope that there is more to this story than meets the eye. Specifically, I hope that OUR DNR did not actually just propose opening nearly all of the oyster harvest reserve areas back up to commercial harvest, because such a decision would be so difficult to square with the state's duty to restore the Chesapeake that it would cease to make the DNR and agency worthy of continued existence. So again, I hope there's more to this story.

But in the meantime, here is a press release from the Chesapeake Legal Alliance:

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed recent amendments to the Maryland Code of Regulations to eliminate 10 of 12 oyster harvest reserve areas thereby allowing them to revert back to open harvest bottom. The recovery of oyster populations, with their excellent filtering capacities, is a critical component of the overall restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

With the assistance of volunteer attorneys at Steptoe & Johnson (Washington, D.C.), the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy and several other Bay river organizations submitted a compelling letter to DNR advising of the adverse biological implications and legal shortfalls of its proposed action. This letter, copied to Maryland General Assembly members, resulted in a Maryland senator putting a hold on the proposed DNR regulations so that the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review can examine closely the proposed regulation.
 

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Par for the course with regards to our state's oyster management philosophy. Power dredging in the rivers decimated what was left of most of the remaining oyster beds in those rivers. Total mismanagement of a failed resource to benefit a few. Last I checked the state has spent over 60 million in the name of oyster recovery efforts and with the exception of a few zones its been a complete failure. Now they want to open those areas up for harvest. No surprise to me.
 

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there is more--this regulation only applies to harvest reserve areas--not oyster sanctuaries...

Purpose of the Changes:
The purpose of this action is to remove certain Harvest Reserve Areas (HRAs) from regulation and allow these areas to revert back to open harvest bottom. HRAs are not sanctuaries. No sanctuaries are being opened by this action.
The county oyster committees have requested that the Department remove several HRAs from regulation. HRAs were developed in consultation with the oyster industry and are commercial areas that are harvested on a rotational basis. The areas were held in reserve, closed for a certain portion of time, to provide ecological benefits while increasing the number of harvestable oysters. The oyster committees have determined that the reserve areas are not functioning as originally designed and would like them open to oystering at all times during the oyster season.
The proposed action removes ten harvest reserve areas. The areas are being removed because they haven't been planted with seed oysters recently and they are no longer being managed as active reserve areas. Evans Reserve and Bramleigh Creek are not being removed because these areas are still being actively planted with seed oysters and used as reserves. Once the areas are removed, oyster harvesting will occur under all the standard harvesting laws and regulations.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the clarification, RJ. This paints it in a slightly less crazy picture. I say "slightly" because I'm having a hard time imagining that opening nearly all areas that had been closed to harvest (albeit temporarily) squares with the notion of restoring Chesapeake oysters. At the very least, should these areas not be opening more gradually, on a rolling basis?

Even if they are not being seeded, I presume that these closed areas contain some mature oysters. Otherwise, why would anyone want them re-opened? So, under the proposal, these open areas will once again be open to the same bottom-scraping harvest techniques -- well documented as destroying not only oysters but many of the other keystone reef inhabitants -- that has led us to this sorry state in the first place.

Does a certain trigger event require re-opening, such that DNR had no choice (or felt it had no choice)?
 

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It's all a bunch of bull****. It's well past the time to stop screwing(you know the word I mean) and put a moratorium on all harvesting of oystering, except farm raised, on the Chesapeake Bay. And I don't give a rats ass what the defenders of the watermen have to say about it. Oysters grow and reproduce rather quickly. In 5 years they could open it up. Full time oystermen would be paid for not oystering during those moratorium years. They would be paid per their catch reports in the year prior to the moratorium. Part time (if they exist) would not be paid anything but would not be required to pay license fees during the moratorium. Same for full timers. Why would watermen object this? Only those who understated their catch reports would complain. Just think 5 years of not having to work on those cold, windy days out there. Where does the money come from to pay them you ask? Take it out of the millions of dollars they are wasting on studies on ways to clean up the bay because the oysters will filter enough bay water during those years to more then pay for cleaner water. That study has already been done.
 

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I talked to the DNR Shellfish people about this in the past and also visited Horn Point Labs in Cambridge.

There are two ways to raise aquaculture oysters.

1. Float cages
2. Bottom (tonging or dredging)

Oysters that are on the bottom of the Bay do a much better job of filtering the water than float cages.

The bottom is their natural state and filter feeders work on different parts of the water column.

Float cages require a lot of space on top of the water to produce a sufficient number oysters to make it worthwhile from a business standpoint.

Choptank Sweets does this Cambridge and it requires a massive number of cages.

DNR has been working on a program to convert Waterman over to aquaculture via leased bottom.

This is not unlike how they oyster today, it's just that they lease the "real estate" from the State.

Large numbers of sanctuaries are totally off limits now to commercial harvest.

Billions of oysters have been replenished in these sanctuary areas through DNR in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The most recent huge sanctuaries created were in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank. The next one on the list is the Tred Avon.

Watermen traditionally worked these areas that are now off limits.

The number of oyster licenses granted are a very small fraction of what once were issued and support Maryland's valuable seafood and restaurant industry.

The limited number of remaining oystermen can continue a Maryland tradition and preserve their heritage.

Maryland Seafood Industry has sufficient product.

Billions of oysters are placed in sanctuaries that are off limits.

The leased bottom and limited number of remaining zones the watermen work are also filtering the water, getting turned over and only the large, mature oysters are removed.

It all makes sense to me.
 

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From what I know, the annual profits are quite small after expenses. They purchase the leases, pay a lot now for licenses, oyster boat, slip fees, crew, fuel, gear and maintenance, taxes on every bushel sold, rough weather conditions, extremely long hours. The Maryland Seafood Industry is important to the State and many people in the chain profit from every dozen oysters consumed, including the State coffers. I guess you could say that farmers are subsidized as well as other essential industries.
 

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From what I know, the annual profits are quite small after expenses. They purchase the leases, pay a lot now for licenses, oyster boat, slip fees, crew, fuel, gear and maintenance, taxes on every bushel sold, rough weather conditions, extremely long hours. The Maryland Seafood Industry is important to the State and many people in the chain profit from every dozen oysters consumed, including the State coffers. I guess you could say that farmers are subsidized as well as other essential industries.
So, the actual profits are "quite small", but "many people in the chain profit?" Which is it?

Oh , and they work long, hard hours?

What was your point again?
 

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My point was that no one is getting rich oystering but the State and many small businesses benefit from oystering. Many people that visit Maryland and that live here love oysters, crabs, rockfish, clams and other seafood products.
 

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My point was that no one is getting rich oystering but the State and many small businesses benefit from oystering. Many people that visit Maryland and that live here love oysters, crabs, rockfish, clams and other seafood products.
Your are right with this post. Glad to have you posting, nice to have a poster with extra insight. There were others but they lost their vision by becoming out of hand with their comments. It was a shame too. Could have had some great discussions.

Personally, haven't eaten oysters in years from the bay, that water is in bad shape. Surprised the state hasn't put out warnings. Cooking what I catch helps to take care of anything that might be.
 

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Personally, haven't eaten oysters in years from the bay, that water is in bad shape. Surprised the state hasn't put out warnings. Cooking what I catch helps to take care of anything that might be.
Oysters are good cooked too! Fried, steamed, baked, stew, fritters....... Of course, I've been eating them raw as well for the last 35 years
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I talked to the DNR Shellfish people about this in the past and also visited Horn Point Labs in Cambridge.

There are two ways to raise aquaculture oysters.

1. Float cages
2. Bottom (tonging or dredging)

Oysters that are on the bottom of the Bay do a much better job of filtering the water than float cages.

The bottom is their natural state and filter feeders work on different parts of the water column.

Float cages require a lot of space on top of the water to produce a sufficient number oysters to make it worthwhile from a business standpoint.

Choptank Sweets does this Cambridge and it requires a massive number of cages.

DNR has been working on a program to convert Waterman over to aquaculture via leased bottom.

This is not unlike how they oyster today, it's just that they lease the "real estate" from the State.

Large numbers of sanctuaries are totally off limits now to commercial harvest.

Billions of oysters have been replenished in these sanctuary areas through DNR in partnership with the US Army Corps of Engineers.

The most recent huge sanctuaries created were in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank. The next one on the list is the Tred Avon.

Watermen traditionally worked these areas that are now off limits.

The number of oyster licenses granted are a very small fraction of what once were issued and support Maryland's valuable seafood and restaurant industry.

The limited number of remaining oystermen can continue a Maryland tradition and preserve their heritage.

Maryland Seafood Industry has sufficient product.

Billions of oysters are placed in sanctuaries that are off limits.

The leased bottom and limited number of remaining zones the watermen work are also filtering the water, getting turned over and only the large, mature oysters are removed.

It all makes sense to me.
Thanks. What I gather from your helpful post is that watermen have two ways to "aquaculture" oysters: floating cages or leased bottom. The latter provides better habitat for other species and better filtering properties (albeit temporarily).

On the one hand, putting aquacultured oysters to a better purpose until harvest time makes sense. On the other hand, this does tend to stretch what I and probably many others envision as "aquaculture." One concern is the nature of this leased bottom. If it's an existing, natural reef that is being supplemented with seed oysters, then I have concerns, since continuing to harvest these areas keeps that reef from recovering to anything near its full filtering and habitat potential. If, by contrast, the leased bottom is more-or-less barren, then the seeding it is a net benefit even with the harvest.

Lots of food for thought....
 

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Thanks. What I gather from your helpful post is that watermen have two ways to "aquaculture" oysters: floating cages or leased bottom. The latter provides better habitat for other species and better filtering properties (albeit temporarily).

On the one hand, putting aquacultured oysters to a better purpose until harvest time makes sense. On the other hand, this does tend to stretch what I and probably many others envision as "aquaculture." One concern is the nature of this leased bottom. If it's an existing, natural reef that is being supplemented with seed oysters, then I have concerns, since continuing to harvest these areas keeps that reef from recovering to anything near its full filtering and habitat potential. If, by contrast, the leased bottom is more-or-less barren, then the seeding it is a net benefit even with the harvest.

Lots of food for thought....
Goose, my understanding from the watermen that I've spoken with that lease bottom is that the goal is to have a "rotating inventory" if you will.
Obviously they don't want to harvest more than they're replacing.
Also, it behooves them to get to a point where they have an abundance of mature oysters, since natural reproduction will come into play.
With my somewhat limited understanding, leased bottom is a good thing.
Especially considering the maintenance and ownership headaches that are associated with cages.
 
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