Oyster reefs a waste of money

The Bay Journal is a very informative paper and I am excited about many of the things I read. On the other hand, I read some things that give me the shivers because I think the people involved don’t know what they are about when I see money and resources wasted on things which make no sense to me.

I have been engaged in seafood harvesting for most the past 70 years. I gave up my commercial license last year at the age of 85. I am still a member of the state and county watermans associations and I still lease three acres of oyster bottom from the state for private oyster culture.

My major concern is seeing all those mountains of shell and the money it takes to move them wasted on so-called oyster reefs. Anything more than a few inch layer on the bottom is a senseless waste, and I don’t know any oysterman who will refute that.

The stated goal is a tenfold increase in oysters in X number of years. That is possible if Mother Nature cooperates and delivers one of those colossal strikes of oyster spat which occurs very rarely (usually every 10–15 years). Otherwise, doubling the supply would be a remarkable achievement. I doubt if anybody fully understands all of the factors that have to come together for a successful wild oyster hatch.

On the other hand, in a hatchery, where things are strictly controlled, there is an almost 100 percent chance of some success. I have never been to the Horn Point hatchery, but I understand it is being heavily utilized. I have not been to the Piney Point hatchery this year, but I was there several times last year and it was operating far below capacity and they produce excellent seed.

I was able to get 150 bushels of seed from the Piney Point hatchery last year for experimental growth. I was only allowed to keep them in the hatching tank for three weeks, so when I received them, they were hardly large enough to see and very vulnerable. I planted them in mid-August and when I checked them in mid-October, I was surprised to find some as big as my thumbnail. I checked them again in mid-May and some were 2 inches, far ahead of the normal growth on the natural bars. I hope to check them again the first day that the weather cooperates.

Walter Saunders
Chaptico, MD

Poultry farms preferable to sprawl

A new report issued by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on suburban sprawl examines changes in land uses in the Bay watershed and concludes that “suburban sprawl, if continued at the rate experienced during the 1990s, threatens to overwhelm progress made to date to improve the health of the bay.” This is an important recognition by the foundation, a realization that was already known by farmers in the region. It is further evidence that a strong poultry industry is vital to improving the Bay’s health.

Thousands of farms in the watershed remain as farms thanks to Delmarva’s poultry industry. Land used for family-operated chicken houses and land used to grow corn and soybeans, the major ingredients in chicken feed, is kept in agriculture and not converted to other uses. Income earned from growing chickens allows many farm families to continue producing other agricultural crops, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Additionally, natural wildlife habitat remains in farm areas. Through best management practices, farmland provides natural filters for nutrients. As the largest segment of agriculture in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, the poultry industry needs to remain strong because of the many benefits it provides.

Residents in the Bay watershed and policy makers need to remember that unjustified, unrealistic, unscientific, and sometimes punitive laws, regulations and policies are counterproductive to improving water quality in the Bay.

Increased efforts by everyone are needed to preserve our area’s poultry and farming operations. Anything less will lead to fewer farmers, less open space, and more unwanted sprawl.

After all, once farmland is converted to other uses, it never goes back to being farmland.

Bill Satterfield
Executive Director
Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.
Georgetown, DE