In years past, Chesapeake watermen survived by catching crabs in the warm weather and harvesting oysters in the colder months. In recent years, the precipitous drop in the bay's oyster population has virtually eliminated that tradition and has increased pressure on the crab fishery. A small sign of improvement in that area appeared this week, when the amount of red tape that Maryland oyster farmers have to navigate was cut back. The process to get a permit for an oyster farm, which had taken up to 12 months at the state and federal levels, is now expected to take no more than four months, Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials said. Mr. Simns, who wants to set up an oyster farm, said the change in the process was welcome. But he cautioned against expecting immediate results. It usually takes three years for an oyster farm to make a profit, he said.