While increasing the oyster population and ensuring that “all Marylanders can enjoy the bivalves’ environmental benefits while improving the long-term outlook for the fishery,” is a goal we share, comments by Chesapeake Bay Foundation Executive Director Alison Prost tell only half of the story at best, and are deliberately misleading at worst.
CBF cherry-picked a portion of our analysis presented to the Oyster Advisory Commission in April and asserted that removing one day from the workweek would have “little conservation benefit.”Here is what the analysis actually states: “If implemented alone, given current behavior, one day reduction would have little conservation impact.” This is why we are imposing other measures, including a reduction in bushel limits as well as closing harvest areas. These measures together put us on a path toward a sustainable fishery in 8 to 10 years. CBF knows what DNR’s plan is.
The problem is that our plan doesn’t meet their political agenda. CBF pushed for legislation that mandated a stock assessment be conducted and an oyster management plan be developed, but unfortunately for them, the best available science doesn’t support their agenda.
The stock assessment, which was conducted by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and peer-reviewed by some of the best scientists in the country, tells us that a moratorium is not necessary and that Maryland can have a sustainable commercial oyster harvest. CBF has not shared any science or modeling that disputes this fact.
CBF has historically been an important partner in protecting the bay, so we are troubled that they’re choosing to grab a few headlines rather than focus on science and constructive discourse.CBF has the luxury of considering only one aspect of management. At DNR, we have a responsibility to consider multiple factors, including the environment, harvest pressure, protecting Maryland markets, not shifting the burden to other fisheries, along with the cultural, economic and social significance of the oyster fishery.
Our new Oyster Management Plan establishes a robust and science-driven framework for a sustainable fishery. By combining sustainable fishing practices (reducing the oyster harvest by more than a quarter) with other measures such as strategic investment, enhancing aquaculture, and restoring habitat and sanctuaries, the result will be real, long-term solutions for the resource.
Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is the secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.