- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) An emergency regulation allowing watermen to use power dredgers to harvest oysters in some Chesapeake Bay tributaries went into effect yesterday as state environmental officials try to improve what could be the worst harvest on record.
With dredging, Maryland watermen may bring in as many as 10,000 more bushels of oysters this season, which is on pace to finish at 40,000 to 50,000 bushels barely half the previous all-time low said Eric Schwaab, director of the Department of Natural Resources' Fisheries Service.
Dredging also may help rehabilitate oyster beds in the five designated areas, Mr. Schwaab said, by digging up shells and leaving some atop the silty sediment on the Bay's bottom. Baby oysters, known as spat, grow by attaching themselves to hard surfaces, such as other oysters. On mud, they would die.
The five areas where power dredging will be permitted had flourishing oysters populations that have been damaged by heavy sediment settlement in recent years.
They are the Honga River in Dorchester County; Fishing Bay in Dochester, Somerset and Wicomico counties; St. Mary's River, off the Potomac River in St. Mary's County; Pocomoke Sound within Somerset County; and parts of the Choptank River in Talbot County.
The regulations were approved Friday by the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review.
Oysters were once the cornerstone of the Chesapeake's fishing industry, and watermen scooped as many as 2.5 million bushels out of the Bay as recently as 1975. But diseases accidentally introduced in the 1960s have devastated the population, with the harvest hitting rock bottom during the 1993-1994 season, which ended with about 80,000 bushels.
For the most part, Maryland's watermen are not permitted to dredge for oysters.
Instead, they mostly use an antiquated contraption: hand-operated tongs, a long scissor-like tool with metal rakes on the ends. Some of the exceptions allowing dredging include areas where the water is too deep for tongs.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide