Commission touts oyster farms over wild harvests
The Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission will release an interim report today that suggests aquaculture is the best course for saving Chesapeake Bay’s dwindling oyster populations.
The commission says banning wild oyster harvests in large portions of the bay and supporting privately run shellfish farms is the only way to bring the species back from its historic collapse over the last few decades.
“You probably would not want watermen going where they wanted to and capturing whatever wild oysters they can find” in the future, William Eichbaum, an environmental activist who chairs the commission, told the Washington Post.
Maryland established the commission last April to find a solution to the problem. Almost $40 million in federal and state funds has been spent on oyster restoration, the newspaper reports, but nothing has worked. The commission also proposes an end to “put-and-take” programs, in which oysters are grown and then placed in the bay for watermen to harvest.
Larry Simns, head of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, says oystermen could suffer greatly if harvesting is banned.
“If somebody took four months of your livelihood, how much impact would that have on you?” Simns told the Post. “We can’t afford to be out there just crabbing in the summer because it doesn’t keep us year-round.”