(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Today, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed bipartisan legislation passed by the General Assembly that would have created a consensus-based process to develop a new oyster fishery management plan for Maryland. The veto of HB720/SB830 comes after Gov. Hogan vetoed another oyster-related bill to permanently protect five oyster restoration tributaries from harvest. The governor’s veto of the tributary bill was later overridden by the legislature.
Like that bill, the consensus fishery management plan received enough votes from legislators to override the governor’s veto. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation supports the fishery management bill because we believe it offers the best chance at creating a plan that satisfies the diverse interests of environmentalists, watermen, oyster farmers, and seafood dealers.
The General Assembly will not have a chance to override the veto until its next session begins in January 2020, unless a special session is called. By issuing the veto, the governor is setting aside a collaborative process that calls for using the latest science to identify sustainable oyster management tools.
A new plan must be developed after the state’s new oyster stock assessment determined the oyster population in the Maryland portion of the Bay dropped from 600 million adult oysters in 1999 to 300 million in 2018. The assessment also found oysters in nearly half of the harvest areas in Maryland’s portion of the Bay were being overharvested.
In response, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued the following statement:
“Business as usual won’t bring back Maryland’s oysters. We are not surprised by the Governor’s veto. He previously vetoed a commonsense measure to permanently protect restored oyster reefs.
“By vetoing this consensus-based fishery management bill, the state’s Department of Natural Resources will continue the same failed strategies that led to overfishing and perilously low population levels. Restoring Maryland’s oysters is possible, but only through collaboration and following the science.”