Marylanders can feel
confident that we are
moving forward to a
cleaner Chesapeake Bay.
The 11th Hour
It was a rare sight in the typically sedate room
where Maryland General Assembly delegates
meet in committee to hear proposed bills. A
half-dozen state troopers and the committee’s
chairman were trying to decide how to handle the audience, easily double fire
The overflow crowd came to voice
their opinions on an issue that has
been contentious in Maryland for
at least 150 years: the harvesting
At issue was the Sustainable
Oyster Harvest Act bill. The legislation—strongly supported
by CBF, Coastal Conservation
Association of Maryland, Midshore
Riverkeeper Conservancy, South
River Federation, and Maryland
League of Conservation Voters—
was approved overwhelmingly
and with bi-partisan support
in the last hours of the 2016
At its heart, the bill authorizes
a scientific study of the current
population of Maryland oysters.
The study will conclude whether
oysters are being overharvested in
the state. If they are being overharvested, as is widely suspected, the
next step would be recommendations for managing the harvest.
The bill was amended several
times to ease concerns of watermen. But it retains a key feature:
scientific rigor. The Department of Natural
Resources will conduct the study in consultation with the University of Maryland Center
for Environmental Science. The findings must
be peer reviewed by experts. The final bill
also gives watermen, conservation groups,
and other concerned citizens the ability to
suggest management strategies if the study
determines oysters are being overharvested.
History has shown both here in the
Chesapeake and around the world that
scientific management of a fishery is the
best long-term course of action for every-
one. The rockfish is a perfect example.
Some witnesses at the oyster bill’s committee hearing remembered 1985 when
Maryland declared a total moratorium on
catching the Bay’s iconic fish. State scientists had watched over the previous decade
with increasing concern as the rockfish
population plummeted. Within ten years
after the moratorium, the population of
rockfish had rebounded and was healthy.
Until this bill, no one has been able to
know what impact the harvest has had on
the oyster population, or even the real size
of the population. Now we’ll know and be
able to do something about it. The study
will conclude by 2018.
Other CBF practices in this leg-
islative session included:
• The Greenhouse Gas Reduction
Act, which Governor Hogan
signed into law, commits
Maryland to some of the stron-
gest reductions in greenhouse
gases in the nation (40 percent
reduction by 2030).
• The Chesapeake and Coastal
Bays 2010 Trust Fund was
funded to its highest level on
record and without diversions
to fund other state programs.
The fund helps Maryland
meet its Clean Water Blueprint
goals. Land conservation
funds also were supported at
healthy levels and protected
from budget raids.
Another of CBF’s legislative priorities was the Poultry Litter
Management Act, a bill to
reduce excess poultry manure
from polluting Maryland’s
waterways and to help farmers
meet a requirement to reduce
manure applied to fields in pol-lution-saturated areas. As with
any large and complex initiative,
As the curtain rings down on another year’s
legislative session, we in Maryland can feel
confident we are moving forward toward a
cleaner Chesapeake Bay.
U For more on CBF’s efforts in Maryland, visit
The Sustainable Oyster Harvest Act of 2016 is a great bipartisan effort
to bring the best available science to bear for the first time to more
sustainably manage Maryland’s public oyster fishery.