Too often, environmental groups, regulators and fishermen find themselves cast in antagonistic roles on marine issues. Prolonged legal and regulatory battles frequently top headlines, while successful conservation partnerships go unheralded. The Chesapeake Bay, long plagued by problems like pollution and runoff, is benefitting from one such partnership. Regional fishermen, government agencies and environmental groups are cooperating to restore the Bay’s iconic oyster fishery. It’s one of the best examples of how an effective public-private partnership works toward building a sustainable fishery and a better environment.
“Restoring oyster reefs in Chesapeake Bay is essential because they play so many critical roles,” said Mark Bryer, Director of the Nature Conservancy’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which helped bring private funds to restoration efforts in Maryland, particularly to examine their effectiveness. “We know from experiences here and around the world that success requires large-scale action and everyone playing a part, including the oyster industry, private citizens, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.”
Virginia has long supported oyster bed restoration. Last year alone, the state spent $2 million building and maintaining artificial, state-owned beds built on old oyster shells. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) works with several local and national partners to monitor and maintain the 240,000 acres of public oyster beds, and allows local watermen to fish them on a rotational basis. It’s an innovative solution that’s paying off.
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