Robert T Brown Sr., Senator Hershey, Delegate JacobsDecember 2018

The Oyster Sustainable study has been submitted to the legislature. I have many issues with this study; it’s a half-way report and does not count any oysters under our three-inch minimum size in this report and this is not a true assessment of total population of oysters. For example, at the end of each season watermen can predict, according to the population of undersized oysters, what type of season to prepare for in the fall. Another example is that with the winter dredge survey on crabs, the DNR predicts what type of crab harvest to expect for the summer season. Yet another is that rockfish young of the year index predicts the future population. The study did not take into consideration the oyster sanctuary of 25 percent of our bottom which as 75 percent of the most productive bottom and how the oystermen were forced to concentrate working in other less productive areas of the Bay.

For this study to come up with a scenario which implied overfishing in the charts of the presentation with red highlights and used a management plan for sea scallops in the ocean and applied it to the Chesapeake Bay—which was not comparable. The water quality is not the same. The report was only based on harvest reports and oysters that are three inches and over. It all comes down to one thing—water quality! The Bay was not meant to be a collection place for effluent from sewage treatment plants, and the uncontrolled mismanagement of the Conowingo Dam. Stormwater management continues to add to the destruction of the Bay.

The Sanctuary Program was created to restore oysters to the Bay and tributaries, with the maximum production of larvae. To date, it has not showed us the results predicted by the scientists. It has not worked.

All I can say is that “we must all stand together as we move forward in the next legislative session” and pray we are successful in keeping this industry productive.

The following is part of my presentation that I gave at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in New York at the annual winter meeting: “Tagging of striped bass in Maryland started in the mid-1990s and has improved since. Back in 2009, 3,326,096 tags were issued and by 2012 it dropped to 1,295,800. In 2013 the amount of tags issued was 781,000. Part of the reason was a drop in quotas and a reduction of too many tags distributed and not used.

“In 2015, Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) were implemented. A quota reduction of 25 percent for coast and 20.5 percent for the Chesapeake Bay—and only 453,110 tags were issued. It has been approximately the same since 2015. This contributes to our accountability and compliance. To go along with this, Maryland has its fishermen tag the striped bass before landing. The fish are weighed and counted by an approved check-in station. Then they are recorded on permit cards before sale and then the check-in station reports back to the Department of Natural Resources on separate forms. This is our method of checks and balances.

After the season is over, fishermen return permit cards with the unused tags to the Department of Natural Resources for validation. This insures that all tags are accounted for. Now, some states are shipping into Maryland striped bass over the maximum size of 36 inches. My first thought was that this is a violation of the Lacey Act. However, according to law enforcement, this does not apply if the fish were legally caught in that state. But Maryland has a possession law of 36 inches and this comes under interstate commerce. Maryland DNR officials cannot stop this. If so, why can’t Maryland ship legally caught tagged striped bass to states under their minimum size and how can some states ban the sale of legally caught tagged striped bass from these states?”

After testifying, I lobbied the New York and Massachusetts Commissioners for several days. Massachusetts agreed and stated that they would proceed with emergency regulations to permit this. New York said they would take this back to its state. Within a week and a half, Massachusetts had passed emergency regulations to permit legally caught striped bass in another state to be sold for 90 days until it goes to their legislation, which will allow this all year-round.

Stay safe in your travels and see you at the Trade Show in January.


Top photograph courtesy of Jay Fleming

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