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Chesapeake oyster proposal alarms environmentalists

An early draft of a report to the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission suggests opening up to 1,000 acres of habitat to watermen. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON — A state report to the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission has drawn criticism from some environmental groups.

The report, which suggests opening up to 1,000 acres of habitat to watermen, has alarmed groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It issued a statement saying there is no scientific justification for the change.

“The draft plan heavily weighs the desires of the commercial seafood industry to harvest in sanctuaries,” said Alison Prost, the foundation’s Maryland executive director, in a statement.

“Sanctuaries are our best hope of restoring the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay,” Prost said.

But Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials, whose staff members compiled the report, say it’s just a first draft.

The hope is that the commission can strike a balance between encouraging oyster population growth and giving the region’s watermen a boost.

“Bottom line goal = more oysters in the water,” the report reads. Authors also aimed to “look at (the) big picture holistically to address values and concerns.”

Among the proposals in the report is starting a rotating harvest, one that would alternate between allowing harvesting and then seeding the beds.

The advisory commission comprises environmentalists, members of the seafood industry and scientists.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.


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