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DNR to Hold St. Mary’s River Oyster Leasing Public Meeting

The Maryland Department of Natural Resource (DNR) will hold a public meeting to discuss adding criteria to regulated oyster aquaculture inside of the St. Mary’s River Oyster Sanctuary on December 6 from 3 to 7 p.m.

It is the Department’s view that a regulated amount of oyster farming within the St. Mary’s Oyster Sanctuary is compatible with the restoration effort. DNR is considering regulations and policy changes to allow private leasing as part of the overall restoration plan in this area.

One option is to maintain the status quo. The other option would stipulate that areas with average oyster densities of more than 15 oysters per square meter cannot be leased. This number is based on Chesapeake Bay Program’s guidelines for what constitutes a restored oyster bar.  This option is in addition to existing regulations including no more than 10 percent of a total sanctuary area may be leased, and leases may not be on Yates bars.

DNR will hold the meeting at the Hampton Inn, 22211 Three Notch Road, Lexington Park, Md. 20653. DNR encourages interested citizens to learn more and provide feedback online through the DNR Regulation pages.

  • Linda Williams

    I attended the Dec 6 meeting, and was extremely disappointed that a meeting intended to consider the criteria for oyster aquaculture in a sanctuary brought no specific details in the form of maps and permit applications to clarify for the public the intended scope of the regulations. How are we expected to make informed comments when so much information is deliberately, according to Michael, withheld? DNR was going through the motions, not serving the public interest.

    That said, It seems clear to me that a newly named sanctuary should be given a moratorium on additional commercial operations, i.e. no commercial beds beyond those grandfathered at the time of the establishment of the sanctuary. How else will we be able to assess the efficacy of oyster restoration efforts? Give nature a boost and a chance. Those beds with your arbitrary number of 15 oysters per sq. m. or even less may turn into oyster reefs naturally. We need to know if this can happen in a sanctuary. We already know that the upper St Mary’s has been depleted and have witnessed the intensive commercial harvesting of wild oysters for years between Red #4 and Martin’s Cove. Please wait 10 to 20 years to allow the experiment to give us reliable data on the efficacy of restoration efforts, then re-assess the issuance of barren bottom aquaculture permits.

    In your balance of protection of Maryland’s natural resources vs the promotion of extraction of those resources, it seems prudent and appropriate to “err” on the side of protection. No one else has the power to make that happen, and citizens of Maryland depend on you to stand up for nature. We have already seen the benefits of moratoria on rockfish and crab harvesting. Why not give our small local experiment a chance?

    Linda Williams
    St. Mary’s City, MD

  • Karrie Schou

    It saddens me to think that after taking steps forward to improve the water quality of the bay, we are considering standing in the way of progress and allowing these protected areas to be harvested. I feel leaving these areas closed will benefit MANY while opening them up to harvest will benefit a mere small group.

  • kking

    Hi Linda,

    I’m glad to have this opportunity to respond to your question regarding oysters in St Mary’s River.

    Please understand that DNR is directed by the Maryland legislature to both implement a leasing program and to protect wild oysters. It would be a dereliction of duty for us to not work towards both outcomes. The meeting we held was designed to take public input as we pursue a responsible and reasonable balance. Thank you for taking the time and effort to attend and participate in this important public process.

    You and several others were dismayed that maps of all leases were not displayed. We scheduled this meeting to gather information about how to implement a leasing program that will not negatively affect wild oyster populations. The exact location of each lease is not relevant to the larger discussion of protection and program implementation. Individual leases go through an extensive public notification process and are subject to additional public information meetings and/or legislative hearings.

    You can find out about all lease applications by periodically checking DNR’s public notice page There you will find maps, coordinates and information on the public participation process.

    Regarding the thought that the upper St. Mary’s River is depleted, I can assure you that the river has perhaps the best oyster population of any tributary in Maryland.

    You asked “How will we assess and enhance the efficacy of oyster restoration efforts?” Oyster restoration efforts are measured primarily by doing population analysis, specifically, by measuring oyster density over time. Measurements of restoration can be undertaken no matter what is happening 150 feet or 150 miles away. An analogy I would make is that you can measure the growth of your lawn even if your neighbor plants grass seeds in their lawn.

    We believe that we can balance the economic outcomes of leasing and the ecological outcomes from natural oyster bars. We are listening to the opposing arguments, and we do care about having success on both fronts.

    I’d be happy to discuss this with you directly. Please feel free to contact me on my direct line below.


    Michael D. Naylor
    Assistant Director, Fisheries Service
    Shellfish Program

    Tawes State Office Building
    580 Taylor Ave, B2
    Annapolis, MD 21401