Bay Journal

Topics: Fisheries

Study finds Maryland oyster sanctuaries likely to boost crab, perch fisheries

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The restoration of reefs in Maryland oyster sanctuaries may be unpopular with watermen, but a recent study predicts the effort will eventually yield a bonanza for the commercial seafood industry, with bigger harvests of blue crabs and white perch.

Ecological modeling done by Morgan State University’s Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory in Calvert County projects an 80% increase in blue crab harvests and a 110% jump in white perch catch in the Choptank and Little Choptank river systems, where large-scale oyster restoration projects have been under way since 2011.

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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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