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Department Hosts First Oyster Advisory Commission Meeting

Members Charged with Reviewing Current Policies and Crafting Recommendations

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources yesterday held the first public meeting of the newly reconstituted Oyster Advisory Commission, where members discussed the current state of the oyster population, were briefed on the soon-to-be-released five-year oyster management review report and were provided their charge and mission from Secretary Mark Belton.

“Our goal is simple: more oysters in the Chesapeake Bay,” Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton said. “The state is dedicated to restoring the native oyster population throughout the bay and its tributaries for cultural, ecological and economic reasons. The commission and its diverse membership will provide us with advice and counsel on current policies and practices, and help guide on-going and future restoration activities that align with the state’s commitment to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.”

Secretary Belton has designated Kelley Cox, founder and president of the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center on Tilghman Island and Scott Eglseder, president and owner of Eglseder Wealth Management Group of Easton as commission co-chairs. They will lead the 23-member commission, which is comprised of community, private and public stakeholders, including academics, environmentalists, legislators and watermen.

“Cox and Eglseder share my dedication to public service and are well-positioned to help lead the commission,” Belton said. “The department will rely on them to guide the commission’s work as we thoroughly review the state’s oyster activities and programs.”

The department is currently drafting a five-year oyster management review report, which will focus on oyster sanctuaries, public shellfish fishery areas and aquaculture. The report will present available data on the three management areas and provide options for additional action, activity and research. It is currently being reviewed by a panel of independent consultants, and is scheduled to be released at the end of the month. The report will incorporate data from the department’s annual oyster survey.

“The five-year report will be as comprehensive as the data available,” Belton said. “While five years does not provide enough time to rate the complete effectiveness or success of the state’s oyster program, the report will spur an open and public conversation about the current plan and its future direction. It is my sincere hope that the newly-comprised commission will study the report and provide detailed recommendations for my consideration.”