The ongoing saga between those in the oyster industry on the Chesapeake Bay and politics still continues after hundreds of years of History.
Recently, at the Oyster Advisory Committee, or more commonly known as the OAC, those that are on the commission that represent the oyster industry in Maryland decided to not participate during a meeting and walked off.
You may ask why would they do such a thing? Well, here is the reason. After many meetings of the OAC, approximately 40+ of those in the industry got completely disgusted in how the meetings are going and decided not to participate midstream of the last meeting, commonly known as a walk-off.
With the factors at hand of poor communication capabilities, not being able to hear anybody speak, and not being in a one-on-one meeting capacity, as described in the matrix of the OAC, those industry representatives had had enough. Thus the meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum.
Will these industry representatives return to the next meeting? Most certainly yes, for they are a majority of the commission and realize there is power in strength. What these industry representatives want to hear is plain and simple: How do we get more oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. And this will happen at the next meeting on Dec. 14.
This being said, let us discuss the latest political situation involving oysters and our great Chesapeake Bay. On Nov. 18 at the Maryland Board of Public Works meeting, Comptroller Peter Franchot directed a warning to Secretary of Department of Natural Resources Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. This was concerning the latest scoping of PSFAs, or public shellfish fishing areas, that are currently being scoped by the Maryland DNR.
In his statement, Franchot told the secretary to slow down and be careful of moving forward with the scoping process. And for what reason did he make that comment? He quoted that there are over 200,000+ acres where the wild fishery can dredge and catch oysters, and there is only 6,000 acres for aquaculture.
He also stated that all the oysters will be gone in 10 years and that the wild fishery will not exist, and aquaculture is the new way of the future. He also commented that aquaculture will create a sustainability of the oyster population in the Bay, and would improve the health of the Bay greatly. He also said that the new scoping of PSFAs would deter aquaculture leases. 100% wrong. What in the name of the good Lord is this man talking about?
Even earlier this year, he made a comment down in Crisfield at a local seafood processor that aquaculture is the reason the wild oyster fishery is still in business. Evidently, the Comptroller either doesn’t understand anything about the Chesapeake Bay, or he is getting twisted information from individuals that want to see the wild fishery go away. I believe it’s a combination of both.
To make these ill-founded, non-science-based, off-the-hip, ad-hoc comments once again has totally set those that work the wild fishery for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay in a tailspin of confusion. He has even said that when he becomes governor he will make sure that Maryland is the key in restoring oysters and striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay. What problems is this misinformed individual talking about?
Over the past three years, even with days taken away and bushel reductions, the oyster biomass and harvest records have increased significantly. I guess being the comptroller of Maryland, and seeing the revenue that we generate through oyster taxes, this still doesn’t register with him. He has never once reached out to those in the industry to discuss what is going on in the Chesapeake Bay.
I myself, and members of Delmarva Fisheries Association, and local county elected officials have met with Mr. Franchot on three occasions to discuss restoration efforts that need to be moved forward concerning oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. All of these meetings fell on the deafness of political ears, and absolutely went nowhere. Even after many attempts since then in the past several weeks to contact the Comptroller to discuss these matters, being that he is now going to be running for our next governor and claims to be taking a “tiger approach” on the campaign trail, there has been no interest in sitting down with those in the industry on the Chesapeake Bay.
So who is he listening to to get his fantastic information on oysters, striped bass, and the Chesapeake Bay? Evidently, now the answer is plain and simple. He is listening only to those that are driving the environmental agenda of aquaculture and massive amount of regulations as a means to manage a fishery. If I have to explain who these individuals are, then evidently you never read the news or see the massive amounts emails that they put out asking you to contribute to “Save The Bay.” Now you know who I’m talking about.
I am very surprised that the Comptroller, on his most recent announcement of his gubernatorial wish, has not reached out to an organization that actually represents the seafood industry in Maryland for advice on what to do from the experts that do the work every day. Hopefully after this article, someone’s phone will ring.
In closing, I have a little comment for the current Comptroller of Maryland: You need to slow down, take your time and get the facts straight about the seafood industry in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, and remember there are over 700 days left till the final day of the election for governor of Maryland. That’s a lot of time to either mess up, or right a wrong.
Captain Robert Newberry is chairman of Delmarva Fisheries Association, Inc., based in Chestertown, Maryland.