The Department of Natural Resources has announced two sanctuary locations as part of the state’s oyster restoration plan for the Chesapeake’s tributaries.
On Friday, December 16, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources unveiled its oyster restoration plan, The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which will recommend two sites — Breton Bay near Leonardtown and the upper portion of St. Mary’s River — to take part in a large scale oyster restoration effort.
The Tred Avon River, Little Choptank River and Harris Creek are three areas already working with federal agencies to restore the state’s dwindling oyster population on the eastern shores of the Chesapeake Bay, while the two new sites will help restore the oyster population on the western side of the Chesapeake.
The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement has set a goal of restoring the oyster population and habitat in those five locations by 2025.
Breton Bay’s oyster population will be restored by a joint effort by the state and federal partners, while the state will work individually in the St. Mary’s River.
In addition to the five restoration sites, the state’s oyster sanctuaries on the Lower Eastern Shore and Annapolis will also be surveyed. This will help to develop management plans and methods that would be most effective to spur oyster reproduction and growth.
The Department of Natural Resources also intends to implement a rotational harvest system, which only allows oysters to be taken periodically (every few years) to allow for re-population to occur in the reefs.
Oyster stock assessments will be conducted over the next year at the state’s 51 oyster sanctuaries. Earlier this year, the Hogan administration was weighing the option of partial harvesting at the sanctuaries while the assessments are being conducted. However, its efforts were blocked by the Department of Resources, which will not permit harvesting by any organization at the designated areas until the end of 2018.
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