(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Today, the Maryland state Senate overrode Gov. Hogan’s veto of legislation that would permanently protect five of Maryland’s oyster restoration sanctuaries. The move followed a vote Friday morning by the House of Delegates to override the governor’s veto. The bill, which was sponsored by late House Speaker Michael Busch and Sen. Paul Pinsky, will now become law. It will help Maryland meet one of the goals of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement to restore and protect five oyster tributaries in the state.
In response to the General Assembly’s action today, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost issued the following statement:
“Today marks another milestone in the recovery of the Chesapeake Bay and the revival of Maryland’s long-declining oyster population. However, it’s bittersweet. The Senate’s veto override happened one day after the death of Speaker Busch, the bill’s chief sponsor, who deftly navigated the legislature to put in place policies to protect the Bay during his time in office.
“This law marks one more achievement for Busch. It will help turn around the future of Maryland’s oysters, just as Busch helped to turn around the future of the Bay.
“It’s no secret that oysters are struggling. The adult oyster population is half of what it was in 1999. The population is estimated to be about 1 percent of historic levels.
“These large-scale oyster restoration tributaries are already providing hope to reverse this trend while also showing their potential to produce significant ecological benefits. In Harris Creek, thriving restored oyster reefs can filter the full volume of the creek in less than 10 days during the summer months. It’s just common sense to continue to protect these restoration areas from harvest, study them, and use the insights to aid the overall oyster population in the Bay.
“However, this is one step. These five sanctuaries represent only 5 percent of the harvestable Chesapeake Bay bottom. To support oysters long-term, we must also put in place a strong fishery management plan that aims to increase the overall population.
“Thank you to Speaker Busch, Sen. Pinsky, and the legislators who took a strong stance on behalf of all Marylanders to override Gov. Hogan’s veto. They proved today they are true champions of the Chesapeake Bay.”