The oyster sanctuary network in the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland was established in 2009.

The goals and objectives of the theory and model of this network was to create mega breeder reactors for oyster reproduction that would repopulate oysters in the bay.

This was to occur through the establishment of large brood stock populations in the sanctuaries to sustain the sanctuary network and nearby fishery areas also.

The theory was that larvae from the sanctuary oysters would disperse and travel out of this network throughout the Bay to replenish oyster bars with natural spat, fishery areas included.

All of the Bay stakeholders were to benefit from this theory and model.

This is what was sold by officials from the University Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the best available science at the time. It was claimed by the officials that watermen would be begging for more sanctuaries because this would work so well.

Now 10 years later there has yet to be a spat set signal sent from the established sanctuary network where brood stock lay in abundance in numerous areas. The mega breeder reactors are ineffective at providing increased spat for other areas.

The theory and assumptions in the larvae transport model and the sanctuary network concept are in urgent need to be revisited to understand what went wrong with the best available science.

The oyster industry in Maryland has been counting on this theory and model to be successful as promised, to date we have been stranded by the bad science and a lack of accountability by those who sold it as a win win.

Jim Mullin is president of the Maryland Oysterman Association. He writes from Earleville. “The View From the Washboards” aims to offer a waterman’s opinion on today’s issues.

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