Oysters InFocus Archives

January 2008 - Oyster Advisory Commission Releases 2007 Interim Report and Preliminary Findings Concerning Maryland’s Oyster Management Program

The Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) recently submitted its 2007 Interim Report Concerning Maryland's Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Program to Governor Martin O'Malley, the Members of the Maryland General Assembly, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary John R. Griffin, based upon the OAC's first four months of work in 2007. During that period, the Commission had extensive discussions aimed to obtain a comprehensive understanding about the science, economics, social and cultural aspects of oyster management and restoration issues in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. A number of complex issues have been identified and the Commission will continue working in 2008 to further examine these issues together with the findings of the multi-state and federal government Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) being prepared to evaluate oyster restoration alternatives for the Chesapeake Bay, including native and/or nonnative oysters.

To view the full report, visit www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/oysters/.

September 2007 - Formation of Maryland's New Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) Announced

Governor Martin O’Malley announced the formation of Maryland’s new Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC), established by the General Assembly as part of a legislative package introduced at the Governor’s request earlier this year. The 21-member commission, charged with developing new strategies for rebuilding and managing the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population, held its first meeting on Monday, September 17, at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater.

To read the entire DNR press release from September 18, 2007 go to www.dnr.state.md.us/dnrnews/pressrelease2007/091807.html.

DNR also created a series of web pages to follow the newly created OAC, all proceedings and other relevant information pertaining to the new Commission can be accessed through www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/oysters/.

June 2007 - Oyster EIS Team releases Progress Report

The team evaluating alternatives to significantly increase the population of oysters throughout the Chesapeake Bay has released a comprehensive Progress Report. The report is published in lieu of the anticipated May/June 2007 release of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), the completion of which has been delayed by challenges in developing a native oyster demographic computer model, an important tool for evaluating the environmental consequences of the various restoration alternatives under consideration.

The Progress Report provides general background on the origin and focus of the EIS, a description of the proposed action and alternatives under evaluation, an overview of the major project components, the status of current efforts, and milestones that still need to be achieved before a Draft EIS can be released for public review. It also provides a detailed review of several predictive tools that have been or are being developed to provide a sound scientific basis for comparing the consequences of the study’s proposed action and the alternatives. To view entire progress report go to http://www.dnr.state.md.us/dnrnews/infocus/OysterEISProgressReportJune202007.pdf.

2004 - Considerations and Needs

Preparing Oysters for Spawning - photo by Chuck Prahl
Oyster restoration is a key element of Maryland and Virginia’s multi-faceted Chesapeake Bay restoration strategy. Oysters were once considered the keystone species of the Chesapeake Bay, serving as a primary contributor to the Bay’s filtration system and providing rich habitat for many other species. Unfortunately, native oyster restoration has not been fully successful despite the massive effort and expenditures of tens of millions of state and federal dollars over the past decade. The National Resource Council report “Nonnative Oysters in the Chesapeake Bay” identified the potential risks with continuing native oyster restoration as status quo:

  • Further declines in Bay water quality;
  • Continued or accelerated losses of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and oyster reef habitats, with cascading effects on the structure and stability of the Bay’s estuarine communities; and
  • Continued decline of the oyster fishery and erosion of traditional economies and cultures of Bay watermen.

Conditioning Spat on Shell In recognition importance of oysters to Bay restoration and need to evaluate alternatives, the State of Maryland and Commonwealth of Virginia agreed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate oyster restoration alternatives based upon Federal regulations in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This decision was made because Federal EIS requirements exceed state standards and would provide an open forum to discuss the issues and science surrounding the proposal to introduce a non-native oyster, as well as compare it to various alternatives, including but not limited to the continuation of native oyster restoration programs. This EIS presents a landmark opportunity to evaluate the risks and benefits that should be addressed by decision makers when considering the introduction of a non-native oyster, as well as the future of native oyster restoration. In the past, introductions of non-native species were not subjected to this level of scrutiny, but rising awareness of the potential ecological and economic problems associated with invasive nonnative species has made resource managers more cautious.

In January 2004, a Notice of Intent to prepare this EIS was issued in the Federal Register. Public scoping meetings were convened in Maryland and Virginia, and public input was used to develop the scope of this project.