Bay Journal

Topics: Fisheries

Maryland oysters take a hit from a year of extreme rain

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Last year’s unrelenting rains apparently killed off significant numbers of Maryland oysters in parts of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and generally impaired their reproduction — but the deluge helped survivors fend off disease.

Preliminary results from last fall’s annual oyster survey by the state Department of Natural Resources found high freshwater-related mortalities in the upper Potomac River and to a lesser extent in the Upper Bay. The survey also found that the number of new oysters produced last year fell below the long-term average.

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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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