Baltimore Sun Columnist Hails Oyster Restoration Plan as “Overdue”

This article follows up on a May 26 Conduit Street blog article regarding the State’s plan to expand oyster sanctuaries and aquaculture in the Chesapeake Bay.  Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks wrote a May 25 opinion column praising the creation of the plan and calling it “way overdue.”  He also argued that the time of the traditional waterman is past.

Too many people — from homeowners who spread chemicals on their lawns year after year to local politicians and businesses measuring progress in the rate of building permits issued — continue to function as if the world has not changed and as if we can keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.

The new effort by the O’Malley administration to begin to end a century-long practice of trying to manage oysters as a wild fishery and to expand sanctuaries for them in Maryland waters is way overdue.

“Commercial harvests have fallen by 90 percent over the past 25 years, from more than 2 million bushels to a little more than 100,000 bushels the season before last,” the 10th paragraph of Mr. Wheeler’s story reported. There are maybe 200 watermen still trying to harvest oysters out of the Chesapeake. That anyone still tries — or is given permission to try — makes no sense. A full moratorium should have been declared years ago.

Is there anyone among us who thinks we haven’t changed the Chesapeake forever, and in a way that calls for a whole new approach to using that great resource for man’s purpose, assuming we “use” it at all? …

But, if you were to step back and look at it from a distance, declaring 25 percent of Maryland’s remaining oyster habitat off-limits to harvest seems like a small step. That the shrinking number of watermen still get access to 75 percent of the wild oyster bars and reefs (and still, predictably, bellyache about the restrictions) tells you we’re still avoiding reality, still living in a world that no longer exists.

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