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Maryland should expand oyster farming, not shrink it | READER COMMENTARY

Oysters are sorted and packed for market at Hollywood Oyster Company on the Patuxent River in Southern Maryland.
Oysters are sorted and packed for market at Hollywood Oyster Company on the Patuxent River in Southern Maryland. (Jerry Jackson/Baltimore Sun)

The recent excellent article on conflicts between oyster harvesters reports attempts by traditional oyster harvesters to limit the expansion of oyster farming by restricting areas open to leasing for aquaculture (”Debate swirls around proposed regulation that could set aside more parts of the Chesapeake Bay for commercial oyster harvest,” Dec. 14). Currently the state has designated 179,000 acres of bay bottom as public shellfish areas that are set aside for harvest by licensed watermen and cannot be leased for aquaculture. An additional 109,676 acres of historic oyster bottom is open to the public fishery.

At the present time, the state has approved 468 oyster aquaculture leases for only 7,593 acres of bay bottom. The acres under lease represent less than 3% of acreage available to the public fishery. Leases are not permanent and owners must abide by strict regulations for use and renew them periodically. There is no public interest served by permanently assigning additional acres of bay bottom, a common property public resource, to the public fishery and thereby limiting its availability for aquaculture.

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Oyster farming is environmentally clean, sustainable and has been understood and practiced since the Roman Empire.

Kenneth B. Lewis, M.D., Cockeysville

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