New Leasing Areas, Oyster Sanctuaries Now in Effect
ANNAPOLIS (September 7, 2010) The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is now accepting applications for new aquaculture permits under new oyster leasing regulations that went into effect yesterday. DNR will also be announcing its overall oyster management budget including a package of technical and financial opportunities for aquaculture ventures later this month to help accelerate the growth of this industry in Maryland and create new jobs.
Regulations to implement the States new Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan became effective on September 6. The regulations identify thousands of new acres open to leasing for aquaculture; establish a new application process and rules for aquaculture; identify areas off limits to leasing to support a continued public oyster fishery; and identify the States new network of oyster sanctuaries, which are expanding from 9% of the Bays remaining oyster bars to 25%, including some of the most productive bottom.
The plan was reviewed through an unprecedented public process that included more than 150 meetings. Numerous adjustments to the initial proposal were made to accommodate the concerns of affected stakeholders, including commercial watermen, members of the aquaculture industry, recreational fishermen, the environmental community, Marylanders Grow Oyster participants and other interested citizens.
The newly adopted plan is very reasonable given the status of the Bays oyster population and interests of all of Marylands oyster stakeholders, said Secretary John Griffin, However, I have offered the commercial oyster industry one last opportunity to propose changes that meet our objectives for oyster restoration and aquaculture development, are based on industry consensus, and honor the supportive comments of our many other stakeholders. The majority of affected counties submitted proposals by the September 2, 2010 deadline and they are currently under consideration.
Since 1994, the Chesapeake Bays oyster population has languished at 1 percent of historic levels; the amount of oyster bars has decreased 80% from 200,000 to 36,000 and the number of harvesters has dwindled from 2,000 in the mid 1980s to just over 500 annually since 2002. Today there are only eight oyster processing companies in Maryland, down from 58 in 1974.
Marylands Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development plan was built on the findings of a six-year Environmental Impact Study of oyster restoration options, and the work of the Oyster Advisory Commission and the Aquaculture Coordinating Council. In January 2009, Governor OMalley sponsored aquaculture legislation to streamline the regulatory process and open new areas to leasing to promote growth of that industry, lessen pressure on wild oysters and provide alternative economic opportunities for watermen. This legislation was developed with broad stakeholder involvement and passed unanimously in the General Assembly last year. Aquaculture is now the predominant means of shellfish harvesting around the world.
Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
View the new sanctuaries and leasing areas at http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/
Information on the leasing application process is available at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/news/story.asp?story_id=88