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Department of Natural Resources News Update

Oysters - The watermen’s oyster strike ended up lasting 4 days and accomplished little else than a loss of income for them. With the demand on oysters being significantly down this season and a large uptick in production fromTexas, processors simply purchased their product from out of state and bypassed the watermen entirely.

Until current regulations change and processors are required to report where their product comes from, the watermen have little recourse for a drop in price dockside. You can help by insisting that your shucked oysters come fromMaryland waters.

Rockfish – The Tidal Fish Commission’s recommendation to drop the gillnet quota from 500lbs per day to 300lbs per day was put into regulation this past week. This new daily limit took affect on December 1st and will be in place until the quota is met. The total gillnet quota remaining for December is 140,440lbs. Based on historical data this should keep the fishery open for approximately two weeks.

2011 quotas will be allocated to the fishermen on January 1st and the 300/lbs per license per day limit will continue.

Yellow Perch - Remember, the Chesapeake Bay Yellow Perch season is right around the corner. If you are interested in receiving some information about this fish please feel free to email me. We have a great information sheet to help educate your staff.

“Used” Oyster Shells – Looking for a place to get rid of your oyster shells AND benefit the environment? Take a look at the Shell Recycling Alliance, they will pick up your used shell for free and use them to replant oyster spat (baby oysters) in the bay. Each shell can provide habitat for 5-7 spat which are capable of filtering up to 28 gallons of water per hour!
 

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Kinda figured that oyster strike would be a bust this time. Hate it for those guys, but aquaculture will put them completely out of business in a few years. Farm raised oysters are twice as good at half the price.
 

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Did not even know about the "Oyster Strike".. Shawn's right about the aquaculture, and some guys will make alot of money from it IF they get on board quick...

TED
 

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:jacked22: - How about a $5.00 increase on all tidal water license and buy out the remaining oystermen ? They get about $40.00 a bushel - take out expenses - hardly worth the hard work.

The tongs do a lot of damage to the bottom.

Everyone wants to see cleaner water - so let oysters filter the bay water.
 

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:jacked22: - How about a $5.00 increase on all tidal water license and buy out the remaining oystermen ? They get about $40.00 a bushel - take out expenses - hardly worth the hard work.

The tongs do a lot of damage to the bottom.

Everyone wants to see cleaner water - so let oysters filter the bay water.
Not to sound like an uncaring person, and let me preface this by saying I hold an oyster license so, hell, buy me out...but why buy 'em out? If your chosen profession became obsolte, who would pay you because you chose the wrong profession??? We have a damn near 10% unemployment, what are you gonna do for the rest of people out of a job? Why should everyone else have to subsidize them? Are they oystermen gonna kick $5 a piece in extra on their license if your business drops off to help you out??? We've known for years this is coming, the bay is crappy, the oysters aren't as good as those from other places or farm raised. I realize that it is not the oystermen asking for this, but they have had years to prepare for this and find another way to make a living. Why should others give their hard earned money because of a lack of proactivity on the part of the oystermen? It is not like someone held a gun to their heads and said "you are an oysterman dammit", it is a chosen profession, just like mine or yours.

I agree on needing the oysters to filer the crappy, nasty, polluted bay, so put a moratorium on oysters and rebuild the stocks, but don't pay them off for it.
 

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Good point. The "Free State" has a long history of paying people for bad decisions. When you count seeding, subsidizing, and other programs, I bet we are probably investing three or four tax dollars for every oyster those guys pull off the Chesapeake bottom.

I'm going to really date myself here by admitting that, in my youth, there were times when I stumbled along in the red dirt behind a plow pulled by a stupid old mule. That's the same kind of device oystermen use for power dredging the bottom of the Bay. They call it a "devil diver" and actually believe that turning up the Chesapeake bottom with a metal plate improves oyster habitat. A guy out there hand tonging doesn't worry me too much, but when the "mule" pulling that bottom plow turns out to be 210 HP Cummins diesel, I gotta think there's a problem. It's no wonder there are less than 1% of our oysters left.
 

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I have spoken with quite a few watermen and many are convinced that it is necessary to turn over the shell bottom every so often to keep the silt from choking our the oysters. more silt because of more people. I still believe aquaculture is the way to go. It seems to work everywhere but here. Last weekend I heard that the circle c is almost bankrupt and is non sustainable at this point.
 

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Talbot County Waterman's position is posted below. I am in the minority because I would like to see both methods of oystering succeed. There are strong feelings on both sides but I believe both types of oyster harvest - dredging and aquaculture - can coexist. The expansion of the sanctuary program, if designed, managed and monitored effectively to prevent poaching, adds significantly to the shell bottom and allows traditional oystermen to work the other bars. They aren't happy because they now have to run so much farther to harvest oysters and time is money. Maybe some additional bars could be opened closer to the majority of the workboats. I disagree with the first two sentences below because I have been shown how sanctuaries are being improved to prevent both silting and poaching. That same solution eliminates the need for additional funding to clean the bars as stated below. The "Maryland Grows Oysters" program is off and running really well. Thousands of volunteers now grow oysters at their docks all over the Bay through MGO. These oysters are doing a lot of good with respect to filtering and need to be placed on protected sanctuaries to continue to multiply and expand that good work. What we need are oysters and more oysters through every means possible. It's sort of like politicians these days; talking past each other instead of meeting in the middle. One group thinks they know what's best. I love those old workboats and maybe I'm sentimental about the men who run them but that's a MD tradition that is as important as Maine's Lobsterman are to their state. It's an important aspect of Maryland culture. Please let's not kill it.
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The Talbot County Waterman Association (TCWA) does not believe the current Oyster Management Plan adopted by the State of Maryland will work. By the DNR’s own admission, sanctuaries have not proven to be successful in the past. Even after funding shell and seed for these areas, the sanctuaries have the appearance of a harvested bar within a few years. They want to promote disease resistance through natural selection, a process that can take decades. Also, sedimentation is a problem because it decreases the chances of propagation through normal spat fall. Funding will also be needed to clean these sanctuaries. The huge cost to maintain these sanctuaries is not presently available. A recommitment to the Oyster Seed Repletion Program (Seed Program) and increased power dredging is a more cost effective, proven process to increase oyster populations. The Seed Program was started in the 1960’s and has a proven record with several states mimicking it, also with success. Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey have emulated Maryland’s program. MSX and Dermo,naturally occuring in the 1990’s helped to hasten the decrease of our oyster population. Now, we believe that the Seed Program can be used again to hasten the increase of oyster bars by the seeding of a disease resistant strain of oyster now occurring naturally in the lower Bay. Power dredging has also proven to be an effective method to harvest oysters while clearing sediment and increases shell surface on oyster bars, enhancing natural oyster spat recruitment. We have witness this success in the lower Eastern Shore with increased oyster harvests in the last 3 years: • 101,000 bushels in 2007-2008 • 115,000 bushels in 2008-2009 • 180,000 bushels in 2009-2010 With the reinstatement of the Seed Program and expansion of oyster dredging, a disease resistant oyster can be spread throughout the bay while reducing sedimentation and increasing shell replenishment. This can be accomplished at a very reasonable cost – one that will be much less than the State’s unproven program. In conclusion, TCWA believes the State has introduced a plan that we cannot afford and will not increase oysters in the Bay. Reinstatement of the Oyster Seed Repletion Program and expansion of power dredging will hasten natural disease resistance and accelerate the growth of oysters in the Bay while preserving the waterman’s heritage and way of life.
 

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Not to sound like an uncaring person, and let me preface this by saying I hold an oyster license so, hell, buy me out...but why buy 'em out? If your chosen profession became obsolte, who would pay you because you chose the wrong profession??? We have a damn near 10% unemployment, what are you gonna do for the rest of people out of a job? Why should everyone else have to subsidize them? Are they oystermen gonna kick $5 a piece in extra on their license if your business drops off to help you out??? We've known for years this is coming, the bay is crappy, the oysters aren't as good as those from other places or farm raised. I realize that it is not the oystermen asking for this, but they have had years to prepare for this and find another way to make a living. Why should others give their hard earned money because of a lack of proactivity on the part of the oystermen? It is not like someone held a gun to their heads and said "you are an oysterman dammit", it is a chosen profession, just like mine or yours.

I agree on needing the oysters to filer the crappy, nasty, polluted bay, so put a moratorium on oysters and rebuild the stocks, but don't pay them off for it.
I have to agree. My construction business is in the crapper right now and NO ONE is here to help me. I will help myself and find a job until the economy picks up. We definitely need oysters to filter the bay. They work long hours with NO pay! You cant' grow 5,000 and harvest 4,000 and still clean the bay though.........Gary
 

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Oysters only live approx 5 years and they are only harvesting those towards the end of their life-cycle. Oystermen are to Maryland what Lobstermen are to Maine. They are much more important to the State of Maryland than the average Joe, whose corner hardware goes under. Both types of oystering can co-exist well and provide benefit. There are huge areas in the Bay now off-limits to conventional oystering, protected sanctuaries. There is now a State funded aquaculture program that provides more oysters and business opportunities. No need to kill a Maryland tradition. There aren't many boats left and no more licenses. The day I no longer see those very few but beautiful wooden workboats lined up in Tighlman Island and Kent Island is a very sad day for Maryland.
 

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I guess it depends on how you many of your tax dollars you think keeping the Maryland tradition alive is worth.

I'm not arguing that it might be worthwhile to keep subsidizing Maryland watermen. Those are pretty boats. Just pointing out that, unless the state keeps putting more and more into the oyster welfare program, the practice of wild harvesting Chesapeake oysters will die for purely economic reasons. Wild caught Chesapeake oysters just can't compete viably with less-expensive and better tasting aquacultured products.
 

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Saving the oysters would be great but everyone who has worked with them knows the only way to increase populations is through aquaculture. Though the state has worked to start the industry they have failed at making it easy. Sanctuaries, thought a good idea, do not work. The oyster populations are well below what is needed to keep the industry alive. If you really want to save the bay you have to ignore the wild markets and do everything you can to get the aquaculture industry in the state. If you fight more for regulation to help aquaculture you will do 10 times what you did making sanctuaries.
 

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Saving the oysters would be great but everyone who has worked with them knows the only way to increase populations is through aquaculture. Though the state has worked to start the industry they have failed at making it easy. Sanctuaries, thought a good idea, do not work. The oyster populations are well below what is needed to keep the industry alive. If you really want to save the bay you have to ignore the wild markets and do everything you can to get the aquaculture industry in the state. If you fight more for regulation to help aquaculture you will do 10 times what you did making sanctuaries.
Maryland oyster growers should pay attention considering Hank probably buys more seafood in one day than most of us will in a lifetime.
 

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Shawn, I did not know the oysters are down to 1% of what their population once was. What is the legislatures and DNR doing about it? They should have stopped everyone from harvesting oysters. I don't mean to put the watermen out of jobs but that is the way things go. When I was a kid in school I trapped to make money then that Bob Barker (the price is right) started crying and the fur industry went bust. It just happens. When my business gets slow no one helps bail me out (least of all the goof in D.C.). But then again what do I know, Bob
 

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One main purpose for the sanctuaries is to have a safe place to relocate the mature oysters grown at docks through the MGO program. Yes, lessons learned the first few years of sanctuaries has shown that changes were needed to protect and improve them. That meant raising the oysters off the bottom and preventing poaching. Solutions were developed, proven and proposals were accepted that do both so let's not give up now. It took many years to get tens of thousands of dockside oyster growers enthused and participating. Without having safe places to take the dockside grown oysters, i.e. sanctuaries, these homeowner volunteers aren't going to continue to raise them... which would remove millions of oysters from the Bay. That it the purpose of the sanctuaries, a not-for-profit initiative whereas aquaculture is proposed as an alternative or addition to traditional dredging and tonging.
 

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Shawn, I did not know the oysters are down to 1% of what their population once was. What is the legislatures and DNR doing about it? They should have stopped everyone from harvesting oysters. I don't mean to put the watermen out of jobs but that is the way things go. When I was a kid in school I trapped to make money then that Bob Barker (the price is right) started crying and the fur industry went bust. It just happens. When my business gets slow no one helps bail me out (least of all the goof in D.C.). But then again what do I know, Bob
You didn't know this? Guess what, oystermen are also 1% of their original numbers and DNR is doing as much as they can, given the budget situation. Sometimes an icon like oystermen and deadrises are worth an annual investment by the State because the State didn't do what was required to prevent the loss of their livelihood which doesn't mean a lot to City -boys but it means a lot to older Marylanders who have a strong connection to Bay heritage.
 

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From the 1920's to the 1970's oyster harvests were in the 2-6 million bu/year and there were 2,500 or so guys catching more than 100 bushels/year. Last year's harvest was about 180,000 bushels with slightly over 300 guys catching 100 bushels/year or more out of around 800 oyster harvesting surcharges paid. So we are at something like 12% (or more) of the oystermen we had when harvests were much higher. Dockside value of the harvest last year was something like $5 million. That's a considerable amount of money. You only need to talk to a couple dozen of these men to understand that making even a little money in the winter is an important part of their ability to be full-time watermen.

It's way too early to say sanctuaries won't work. Large scale, enforceable sanctuaries and the penalties needed to allow protection to work have only been around in MD for one season...

Those who say tax dollars are keeping the oyster industry alive are wrong. Ten years ago, maybe it played a part, but today very little tax money goes towards the oyster industry (with the notable exception of the recent Crab Disaster funds, which are temporary).
 

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Mike - I kept hearing that comment on TF about oysterman welfare and didn't believe it was true but also didn't dispute it because I could not prove or disprove. I know some oystermen but it's one of those questions you just don't ask. I see those guys get up and hit the water in the dark, freezing conditions, when near gale-force winds are trying to contain them, constantly working on their old boats and rigs after selling their oysters, working extremely hard at a livelihood that has been passed down through generations. I also see their kids getting off the school buses and going to small homes where their families have lived for many generations. It's easy for those of us who have State and Federal health insurance, paid leave, retirement benefits, etc. to tell them to get into another line of work because we want the few oyster bars left they are allowed to work untouched. A large number of former oyster bars are being reshelled with live oysters grown by volunteers via the successful MGO program. The new (former oyster bars) sanctuaries are off-limits to oystermen. Thanks for clarifying.
 
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