Proposal Would Allow Harvest on Nearly 1,000 Acres of Best Oyster Sanctuaries

Draft Plan Emerges from Oyster Advisory Commission

(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, issued this statement today following the release of a draft plan to change the way oysters are managed in Maryland.

The plan was presented during the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission meeting Monday evening Feb. 13. The plan would "declassify" nearly 1,000 acres of productive oyster bottom now in sanctuaries (off-limits to harvest) to allow harvest every four years.

Currently, only 24 percent of the productive oyster reefs in the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake are designated as sanctuaries; 76 percent are open to harvest. This plan would reduce sanctuaries to 21 percent, shrinking the existing sanctuary acreage by 11 percent.

Prost:

"There is no scientific justification for opening these 1,000 acres of sanctuaries for harvest. Even the state's own study last July concluded that these protected reefs should not be opened because they are some of the healthiest of our state oyster sanctuaries.

"The draft plan heavily weighs the desires of the commercial seafood industry to harvest in sanctuaries, and does not incorporate the express wishes of the more than 4,000 members of the public who have asked to keep these areas closed."

"Sanctuaries are the oyster population's insurance policy. In the absence of a stock assessment and a science-based management plan, we should be protecting these areas, not opening them up to harvest."

"Sanctuaries are our best hope of restoring the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay. They are pockets of protection where oysters can recover from decades of overharvesting and disease. They filter water and build habitat."

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