- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ shellfish division has applied for a 5-year permit to dredge fossil oyster shells at Worton and Plum Points in the upper Chesapeake Bay.

The Maryland portion of the Coastal Conservation Association isn’t happy about it.

Starting in 2004, the DNR wants to take 10million bushels of shell, with no more than 3million bushels in any year. Dredging would occur from June1 through Aug.15, with 50 percent of the bottom acreage to be removed with dredge cuts no wider than 500 feet and approximately 25 feet deep.

Meanwhile, the CCA/MD says the DNR application to dredge in the upper Chesapeake needs more information concerning the potential ecological impact of such dredging. The CCA/MD says the entire deal is totally unacceptable.

The conservation group believes the DNR has a conflict of interest over the issue of dredging in the upper bay based on the lack of ecological issues raised in its dredging application. Surely, the professional finfish managers and biologists of the DNR have more to add about finfish resources and habitat than what they have provided in the application so far.

The state says the shell dredging is needed to improve oyster habitat in Maryland and to support a goal of increasing oyster biomass tenfold by 2010. The majority of the shells will be used as cultch — an oyster spawning bed — that provides suitable structure for oyster spat (baby oysters) to attach to and form an oyster community. Forty percent is to be assigned for use in establishing sanctuaries and 60 percent will go to the commercial put and take fisheries repletion program.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) will be the permitting agencies. These agencies will make separate decisions on whether to approve or deny the permit. If the permit is approved the Maryland Board of Public Works would then vote on the dredging contract.

The DNR says it expects that the dredging will have no negative impact on bluefish or summer flounder. The only other finfish directly addressed in the application is the striped bass. The application said, “The dredging work would not start until June1 when spawning is coming to a close, having minimal impact on the spawning [striped] bass population.”

The CCA believes the natural resources managers are downplaying concerns about the dredge areas being located in potentially critical rockfish spawning areas. The Chesapeake Bay can provide 65 to 85 percent of the Atlantic Coast’s striped bass production in any given year and the upper bay is the area of highest production. The application also doesn’t address such species as shad and sturgeon, both of which make use of the upper bay during spawning season.

“Why would the impact of dredging on such species be completely ignored in the application?” asks the Coastal Conservation Association.

Is the Bass Boss coming back? — Scuttlebutt has it that Ray Scott, the colorful founder of the international Bass Anglers Sportsman Society that is headquartered in Montgomery, Ala., is close to signing a deal with the current owners of BASS, the ESPN cable TV network, about returning to the organization. Some years ago, Scott sold BASS to a syndicate of employees and investors, stayed with the company for a while, but left in 1998 before ESPN purchased BASS.

BASS vice president and general manager Dean Kessel confirmed last Friday that Scott and BASS might make a deal, but he would not say in what capacity Scott might rejoin the company he turned into a money-making machine that now has in excess of half a million members.

One thing is certain: Since Scott left BASS a lot of the enthusiasm and nationwide interest has waned. Membership recruitment is stagnant; grumbling is heard in the hinterlands, especially from various state BASS federations.

Meanwhile, you might see Scott in his familiar cowboy hat and buckskin jacket as early as today as the annual Bassmasters Classic fishing championship begins in New Orleans. The Classic runs through Sunday.

Maryland gets new fisheries boss — Longtime Maryland Natural Resources executive Howard King has been appointed Fisheries Director, taking the place of Eric Schwaab. King has extensive technical, administrative, and managerial experience spanning 34 years as an upper level manager of fisheries staff and programs.

Samaritan act results in rabies — A Crawford County, Pa., woman who picked up two young raccoons after their mother had been killed by a car, contracted rabies from one of the animals. It’s yet another reminder of the importance to leave wildlife alone, especially young animals.

One of the young raccoons the woman took to her house appeared to be sick, so she called a wildlife officer who had the animal tested for rabies. The results were positive and the woman had to begin a post-exposure shot regimen. The game commission reminded well-meaning citizens that not only can you be infected with various diseases and parasites carried by wildlife, it also is illegal to take or possess wildlife. That holds not only for Pennsylvania, but also for Virginia and Maryland.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].

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