Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Oyster Restoration Could cut $14 Billion Delaware Bay Price Tag- Eliminate 10 Million Pounds of Nitrogen

This is an excerpt from an article on Maryland legislative wrangling around oyster restoration and reserve areas.  The original article can be found here Annapolis Star Democrat Article.

This highlights a similar challenge we have here in Massachusetts in that the regulatory authorities view oysters through a narrow lens- the DMF perceives them solely as a food product and ignore the environmental value they offer. The Mass DMF does a great job at regulating them from a food product perspective- vibrio cases per million oysters harvested are down. But, they refuse to embrace the environmental benefits as illustrated by a very disappointing presentation at a recent Massachusetts shellfish meeting.  (We are seeking to obtain a copy.) Please read-on.

Article Excerpt-

Goldsborough said it sets up a dialogue between all stakeholders, rather than dictate a structure that would convey authority to one stakeholder group to manage a public resource, “including the ability to open the protective sanctuaries that make up 25 percent of productive bars now, anyway.”
David Sikorski, who was at the bill hearing Tuesday representing the Coastal Conservation Association, said oyster management in Maryland has long been based on what can be harvested, rather than looking at it from the ecological role of oysters in the Bay’s ecosystem.

“We value our success on the level of harvest, the economic benefit of that harvest, all too often and we forget about that ecological role, and an ecological role is important because this is a public resource,” Sikorski said. “It’s a public resource that’s not just valuable to those that harvest it for a profit, it’s important to the rest of the Bay’s citizens and the aquatic organisms which live within these reef structures and oysters.”

Charles “Chip” MacLeod, spokesman for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, who also testified on the bill Tuesday, said that simply from a water quality improvement point of view, “oyster restoration could be a meaningful aspect of Maryland’s effort to really improve the Chesapeake Bay.”
MacLeod said that the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that a tenfold increase in the oyster population in the Bay will remove 10 million pounds of nitrogen each year, and that Maryland’s statewide goals under the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load is 11.8 million pounds per year.

“Now, our (Watershed Implementation Plan) has a $14 billion price tag to pull out 11.8 million tons of nitrogen a year. Oysters, if we got a tenfold increase, would do 10 million (pounds of nitrogen) at no cost to the taxpayers, because the work is done by commercial watermen regulated by the Department of Natural Resources,” MacLeod said.

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