Thursday 21 March 2019

Fisheries & Oysters (5)

Earlier this year, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released a five-year report, as required by the Maryland legislature, on the success of oyster sanctuaries. The draft report said that biomass and oyster populations in sanctuaries were going up while oysters in private fisheries were declining.  While the report came with a disclaimer that the findings were preliminary, they showcased that sanctuaries show signs of progress. Oysters are hard little workers. Each one of these amazing bivalves can filter pollutants out of up to 50 gallons of water per day. Unfortunately, they are at just one percent of their historic population in the Chesapeake Bay.  Waterkeepers on both shores of the Chesapeake Bay are seeking public policy that balances the needs of restoration with commercial fishery interests.  Even with information gleaned from the five-year study — and a requirement from the General Assembly (in the form of 2016 legislation) — to follow the science on oyster fisheries management, the commission responsible for managing oysters may be unfairly tipping the scales toward industry.  Oysters are a keystone species. Without a healthy oyster population, it is nearly impossible to restore the health of the Bay.  The Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC), which determines and manages both public sanctuaries and private fisheries, is dominated by representatives of the seafood industry and watermen groups. There are scientists and researchers involved, but they aren’t permitted to take an advocacy position. As far as people representing the Bay and the environment, there are only two spots…
The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the South River Federation, a local environmental nonprofit, teamed up to help purify South River and connected waterways with a natural filter: oysters. Around 400 years ago, oyster reefs grew as large as 30 feet, with each oyster filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day to clean the Chesapeake Bay in only eight days, said Jesse Iliff, the South Riverkeeper. Hundreds of years of harvesting depleted oyster levels, Iliff said, and now it takes over a year to achieve the same filtering. "So far the science bears out that if you have a 3D structure (in an oyster reef) you will get a lot more viability than just laying oysters flat," Iliff said. READ MORE.. (Published in Capital Gazette, June 22, 2016) 
“Science seems to be the monster here,” Pluta said. “Science doesn’t necessarily define the rules of fishery management; DNR does that and they should do that ... What science does is it really provides the guardrails for which we can operate within, and once we have those guardrails, all of the knowledge from the watermen, all of the knowledge out there should be used to identify what the rules for the fishery are.” Pluta said although all scientific data concerning the fishery points to the necessity of a moratorium, he does not see that as being a path forward. He said a moratorium would be viewed as a failure, not just for watermen but for conservationists, as well. “Nobody wants a moratorium. A moratorium would be seen as a failure for the management, and nobody wants to see that,” Pluta said. “We think a collaborative approach is the best approach, and science should be included.” “It looks bad in the rearview mirror if you look back over what’s happened. You lose $1 million worth of oyster restoration — $1 million coming into our economy; jobs, clean water,” Horstman said. “I think we need to start applying the science-based harvesting to what’s left of our oyster population.” READ MORE:, March 6, 2016