Oyster cages. (Photo: mdsg.umd.edu)
Embarking on oyster farming in Maryland just got simpler
Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 23:40 (GMT + 9)
The US Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have put together a joint state-federal permit application that will streamline the process for people interested in oyster aquaculture. Moreover, a new permit will allow the Army Corps to issue several oyster farm approvals.
While in the past farmers had to request approvals from three separate state agencies as well as the Corps, farmers can now simply file a single, joint state-federal application with the DNR. The Corps still must issue a separate approval, but the process should be shortened now that the body has agreed to a simpler "Regional General Permit.”
The new permit will cover new oyster farms of up to 50 ac on the bottom of Chesapeake Bay, 5 ac of cages on the bottom or 3 ac of floating cages or trays. The Corps said the operations can include shellfish seeding, rearing and cultivation plus the installation of cages, floats racks and trays.
A permit process that used to linger for six to 12 months at both the state and federal levels will now last no more than four months, according to DNR officials, The Baltimore Sun reports.
Maryland has attempted to expand oyster farming to help stressed oysters recover and to facilitate the oyster industry’s struggle to bounce back. Oyster stocks have steeply declined over the years as a result of pollution, disease and overfishing.
Governor Martin O'Malley was appreciative of the Corps’s helpful change.
"Together, we can create jobs, grow our seafood industry and make a more sustainable future for the Chesapeake Bay and our native oyster," he said.
Virginia has stayed ahead of the oyster farming race for a long time.
Notably, the past 12 months have seen 38 applications pour in for leasing nearly 1,600 ac of the bay and its rivers for the purposes of aquaculture, Annapolis Capital reports.
US Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski (Both D-Maryland) have also applauded the approval of the modified permit authorizing process.
“The action taken today is an important step in restoring oysters to a central role in the Bay economy,” said Cardin, chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee of the Committee on Environment and Public Works. “Oyster aquaculture will provide a new generation of watermen a valuable fishery while also allowing wild oysters to return to their central role in the Chesapeake ecosystem.”
Maryland is also moving to allow some aquaculture leases to take place within no-harvest oyster sanctuary areas.
- Maryland allows aquaculture in oyster sanctuaries
- Senators pressure NOAA to speed up approval of aquaculture permits
By Natalia Real