On Thursday, March 22, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a supplemental budget for 2019 that includes a $750,000 allocation for Chesapeake Bay’s oyster seed and shell program.
For the last few years, members of the Delmarva Fisheries Association have worked with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the governor’s office to procure funding for oyster replenishment efforts — namely seeding public oyster grounds.
“Several years ago, the Delmarva Fisheries Association petitioned the governor to increase the bushel tax on oysters as a means of funding this program,” said Robert Newberry, chairman of the association. “At that time, Gov. Hogan was unwilling to raise any taxes, but promised to work with DFA and the seafood industry to find funds elsewhere to achieve the goals supported by our members.”
As allocated, the funds will be disbursed through Maryland’s 11 County Oyster Committees, which represent the state’s oyster fishery.
“This level of support ($750,000) has the potential to not only add as many as 100 million established oysters into the waters of the bay,” Newberry said, “but will also generate roughly $15 million in revenue that will go directly back into the fishery, fishing communities and the people that rely heavily on oysters for their livelihoods.”
The seemingly insatiable national appetite for oysters is driving boatbuilding and sustaining fishing infrastructure from Chesapeake Bay to Maine.
“We at DFA would like to thank Governor Hogan, DNR Secretary Mark Belton and their staffs for all of their effort to secure this critical funding,” Newberry said. “This is a marked improvement from previous administrations’ often hostile attitudes toward the commercial seafood industry. We are hopeful that it signals the possibility of continued collaboration to protect this cherished resource, the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”