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MARYLAND: State offers restoration work to watermen

Staff Report • October 23, 2008

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ANNAPOLIS - Maryland watermen are being offered bay restoration work to help them cope with economic losses arising from declining fish and crab catches.

The $3 million program will fund specific work projects to utilize the industry's existing equipment and skill set, DNR said in a news release.

"Temporarily employing watermen for environmental restoration projects will help preserve Maryland's fishing industry infrastructure while the Chesapeake Bay's blue crab population is rebounding," said Gov. Martin O'Malley. "Utlizing their existing skills and equipment, watermen will help us improve more than 1,000 acres of oyster bars."

The Maryland Watermen's Association and the Department of Natural Resources developed work projects such as oyster bar rehabilitation as well as land-based job opportunities to accommodate people who do not own boats and dredge gear.

"This is a win-win situation, that helps both the watermen and the Chesapeake Bay," said Larry Simms, Maryland Watermen's Association.

Every year, the Chesapeake Bay loses 2,600 acres of hard bottom oyster habitat.

Watermen and women with boats and dredge equipment will remove silt and sediment from the tops of once historically healthy oyster bars in order to prepare them for a natural spat set and/or hatchery seed planting.

Restoration of state-managed oyster bars (sanctuaries and reserves) will begin in mid-November.

"Rehabilitating oyster bars is a multi-step process. Without natural shell to use as substrate, using watermen to remove sediment build-up from these relic oyster reefs is a needed and cost effective alternative," said Stephan Abel, executive director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, the non-profit organization that will coordinate the watermen and women's work.

Maryland watermen interested in participating in water and land-based job opportunities must apply by Oct. 31.

Applications may be obtained online at NOTICE TO MARYLAND COMMERCIAL WATERMEN or by calling 866-952-3305. Initial selection preference will be given to qualified Maryland watermen who actively crabbed in 2008.
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