Last year, we had a very important victory when the Maryland General Assembly passed the Oyster Fishery Management Plan (HB720/SB830) that set up a scientifically driven, consensus-based stakeholder process to develop the Oyster Fishery Management Plan for the State of Maryland. But Governor Hogan decided that business as usual was OK and vetoed the bill. Business as usual is what got us to where we are with the oyster population today: the recent oyster stock assessment shows that in the past 20 years the already-low population of adult oysters declined an additional 50%.
If Maryland is truly going to champion the restoration of our local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, it won’t happen without restoration of the oyster population. Oysters filter the nutrients and clean the water from pollutants that are already in our rivers and the Bay.
HB720/SB830 takes the OystersFutures process that was piloted in the Choptank River complex and expand it out to the whole state of Maryland. The make-up of this new group would consist of roughly 60% industry and 40% environmentalists, and require at least 75% consensus on any recommended strategy — meaning that not one side alone could create the consensus needed. The proposed process brings in the voice of the larger community and members of the public who have not had a chance to fully participate through other channels. Collaboration across sectors would be necessary, leading to greater inclusion and transparency in the development of an oyster fishery management. This is hardly a “back room deal” as cited in Hogan’s letter about the veto.
Choptank Riverkeeper, ShoreRivers, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, and many others are vigorously seeking to overturn of the veto. Join us and send an email today!