Bay Journal

Topics: Fisheries

Southern Maryland county considers limiting dock access for oyster farmers

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​Oyster farming has grown rapidly in Maryland in recent years — too rapidly, in the eyes of some. Last week, spurred by complaints from waterfront homeowners and others, local elected officials in St. Mary’s County moved to put the brakes on the burgeoning industry along their shoreline.

The Southern Maryland county’s board of commissioners voted on July 31 to hold a public hearing on Aug. 28 on a proposed 18-month moratorium on the use of commercial docks to land oysters from any newly issued aquaculture leases in local waters.

Randy Guy, president of the five-member board of commissioners, said they want to “slow down” what he called a proliferation of oyster farming operations in St. Mary’s. The county has no direct role in the approval of state-issued aquaculture leases, so they’re looking to change that by asserting local zoning control over the use of docks and marinas that support the shellfish enterprises.

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About Fisheries

Acre for acre, the Chesapeake Bay is one of the most productive water bodies on the planet when it comes to fish. Populations of the native striped bass and nonnative blue catfish have risen dramatically in recent decades, while blue crabs appear to be on the road to recovery.

Recent interest in aquaculture has sharply increased commercial production of oysters from the Chesapeake. Nonetheless, problems such as historic overfishing, habitat loss and disease have reduced the abundance of some iconic species such as wild oyster populations, American shad and river herring, American eels and Atlantic sturgeon to near record-low levels. In the headwaters, brook trout have suffered major habitat losses.

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