Proposed oyster study draws watermen’s ire

How many oysters can be safely taken from the Chesapeake Bay year after year without threatening the long-term survival of the ecologically and economically important shellfish?

That’s a question some lawmakers in Annapolis want answered. A bill heard this week by a Senate committee would require scientists to determine a sustainable rate of harvest. But it has drawn the ire of watermen and the seafood industry, who contend such a study is unnecessary and a threat to their livelihood.

Supporters of the legislation, including environmentalists and recreational anglers, warned Tuesday that despite a population surge the past few years, the state’s oysters may be at risk of overfishing. That could have dire consequences, they said. Oysters are not only the state’s second most valuable commercial fishery, they also help clean the Chesapeake’s water and provide vital habitat for other fish.

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Coastal Conservation Association Maryland