Ask Outdoors Girl

Margaret Worrall writes: I live on the Little Choptank River. We fish, crab, and oyster recreationally, never a threat to the seafood population on our little river, I can promise. While I have been following the discussion on oyster sanctuaries, I have been unable to get a clear picture of what the rules are. A neighbor told me that as of Oct. 1, the Little Choptank River is declared a sanctuary and we can no longer harvest any oysters from the water adjacent to our own property. My husband does not eat oysters, and while I love them in all forms, once again I don't see our "harvest" as a problem. We have in our cove, what local oystermen call disparagingly "cove oysters." This means, as I'm sure you know, that we pick up, literally with our hands, oysters directly lying on the bottom in shallow water. To my knowledge we have no oyster "rocks" and we do not own nor have we ever used even hand tongers or "nippers." In fact what we usually do is take the grandchildren out in the kayaks, pick up some oysters, and then put them back because they do not yet appreciate oysters, either. Once in a while, I get a longing for a few for my own consumption and will pick up a dozen to eat all by myself. When I want to serve an oyster dish to guests, I purchase them at a local seafood store. Am I allowed to continue to pick up the occasional dozen oysters from my own shoreline? May I legally take my grandchildren to pick up oysters if we put them back in the water?

Although Outdoors Girl has been following the year-long oyster sanctuary debate, this is one area she did not hear covered in any meetings, so she asked Mike Naylor, assistant director of the Fisheries Service, to respond. He replied: It is illegal to harvest oysters from an oyster sanctuary. Clearly, picking up oysters to eat is harvest, and no longer allowed. As to picking up oysters and returning them to the water, that is not harvest in any way that I understand the word. I know if it was my land, and my kids, I'd be picking them up to show them. One of my best friends owns a farm along the Little Choptank, and I've been duck hunting there and picking up oysters along the shoreline at his house for more than 20 years. He loves that the river is a sanctuary, but he's not too happy with me about the fact that we won't be able to walk the shoreline at low tide to gather lunch.

If you have an outdoors question in search of an answer, send it to candy.thomson@baltsun.com.

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