|It's Time for an Oyster Moratorium
Dear Bay Weekly:
Once again, the Bay clean-up has fallen short of its goals. And once again starts the hand wringing about what to do and the finger pointing as to who is at fault. Yet the most obvious solution to Bay restoration efforts isn't even discussed. It may not be the entire solution to the Bay's problems, but if enacted it could do more than any other single proposal to clean the Bay. This, of course, is a moratorium on the taking of oysters.
This idea is not new. It was proposed many years ago by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. But the powerful Waterman's Association opposed the plan, and all those supporting it lacked the political backbone to stand by a plan that is most needed.
Surely the Department of Natural Resources understands that this is what needs to be done. The waters of the Bay were once completely filtered by oysters every three to six days. It now takes over a year. Yet oysters do much more than simply filter. The irregular shape of an oyster bed provides safe habitat for small fish and crabs. It is very likely that those populations would benefit. Oysters also feed on algae. With fewer algae and pollutants, more light would get to the Bay's bottom to be of benefit for sea grasses, which in turn would provide even more habitat.
A moratorium on oystering would also strengthen oyster stocks, which in recent years have been decimated by disease.
What better time to impose a moratorium than now, when many watermen have abandoned oystering because it has become unprofitable?
I would like to see the state, flush with money from the booming economy, provide oystermen with some compensation during the moratorium years. This compensation would be based on the oystermen's reported oyster tax. Since many oystermen do not report their catches, this plan would reward only those who obey the present law. I would also like to see skipjacks operating under sail to be exempt as well as oystering derived from aquaculture. These industries would benefit greatly. Ultimately, all watermen would benefit, too, with a Bay full of more crabs, fish and oysters.
I don't propose to have all the answers. I am no expert on the Bay. Yet this seems so simple, I can't understand why I have to propose it. I cannot understand why the experts who are being paid and are supposed to be working for us are not proposing such a plan themselves.
-Les Prosser, Edgewater
Another Good Word for Point Lookout
Dear Bay Weekly:
As a member of the Maryland Lighthouse Commission for several years - appointed by former Governor Schaefer to represent the general public - I loved your recent story about Point Lookout ["The Legends of Point Lookout," Vol. VIII. No. 42: Oct. 19-25].
It's one of my favorite Maryland lights and a very intriguing place. I never saw a ghost there - darn - but certainly believe they exist.
-Shirley Brewer, Pasadena