RIDGE, Md. — A diver pulled a large, porous bag of oysters from Calvert Bay and heaved it onto the motorboat, and the sucker fish and baby crabs began to scurry and skid in a vain search for escape along the slippery floor. Another bounty of bivalves, almost ready for market. But not everyone is excited.
Oyster farming, also known as aquaculture, is one of the few growing businesses here on the western shore of Maryland, a sleepy outpost best known for the sunburned watermen who have pulled crabs and fish from bays like Chesapeake and Calvert for generations. Recent changes to state policy and a growing national affection for oysters (sprinkled with lemon juice only, please) have brought back the shellfish, once as much a staple to Maryland as corn is to Iowa. In the past few years, the state has issued 111 oyster farming leases across 2,240 acres of waters; scores more are pending.
The booming oyster business has come into conflict with the watermen of this region, who argue that the cages used to cultivate oysters are a menace to fishing lines and crab pots, and in some cases an eyesore for residents with waterfront homes.
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