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One of the biggest issues we foresee in the future is the need for shell – both shucked shell for aquaculture and restoration activities and dredged shell to harden bottoms and to replenish substrate that was removed from areas that experienced harvesting during the public oyster season that is open from October to March.
In 2012, ORP in cooperation with MD DNR and watermen county committees, began reclaiming shell from past shell plantings from around the Bay. Several watermen seed boats worked several months reclaiming over 400,000 bushels of shell, of which a majority was planted on public fishing shellfish areas (PFSAs). Natural spat sets were reported throughout the bay that year and many of these shell plantings received a natural strike, some areas more than others.
In 2014, 2015 and in 2016, hundreds of thousands of bushels of shucked shell was purchased from shucking houses in the Chesapeake Bay region and planted by watermen seed boats on PFSAs throughout Maryland.
Photo credit: Jay Fleming Photography
The “Derelict Gear Retrieval Project,” often called “Ghost Pot Program,” is a win-win project impacting the Bay on both an ecologic and economic level. In March and April 2012, the ORP in partnership with Versar, MD DNR and the Maryland Watermen’s Association employed nearly 800 qualified commercial crabbers on 436 vessels to participate in retrieving derelict crab pots from targeted areas of Chesapeake Bay. Efforts were guided by side-scan sonar that illustrated areas of the greatest concentration of derelict crab pots – generally at the mouths of tributaries. Watermen, using grappling hooks, worked for 4 days each to reclaim lost crab posts in 14 large areas (18 retrieval events) around the Bay. A total of 11,851 pieces of debris were documented from all 14 sites. The majority of debris collected was related to crab pots and other fishing gear. Other debris items include anchors, rope, tires, chains and cables.
Photo credit: Tommy Price