oyster recovery partnership.

ORP project :: le compte bay, choptank river.

captain david leonard uses a power dredge to reclaim silt covered oyster shells.

every spring for the last few years maryland watermen have joined forces with the maryland department of natural resources (DNR) to rehabilitate the oyster beds throughout the chesapeake bay. oyster shell rehabilitation is a project that involves reclaiming silt-covered oyster shell from specifically targeted oyster reefs using power dredges.

established by the oyster recovery partnership (ORP), this project aims to restore oyster habitats through a “dredge and release” program – as the dredge drags along the bottom it breaks up oyster clusters, giving them more room to grow. it also jostles the shells and creates clean surfaces for the oyster spat to attach and develop.

ORP collaborates with management agencies, including DNR, NOAA, and the army corps of engineers, as well as individual experts and scientists to develop ways to increase oyster hatchery production across the region. in recent years ORP has enlisted maryland watermen, who they feel “have the necessary boats, equipment and knowledge of the bay to bring local experience and expertise to our projects.”

ironically, these watermen have been facing increased scrutiny for the aforementioned power dredging – blamed by many of the same experts for “destroying oyster beds.” when in fact, programs like ORP have proven that power dredging are good for the oyster beds and can possibly do more to restore oyster populations than sanctuaries. according to senator colburn “dredging works the bay bottom which in turn prevents oysters from being silted over which suffocates and kills them,” additionally, bunky chance, president of the talbot county watermen’s association confirms that “every place we have used this equipment, they’re [oysters] coming back. every place we’re not, they’re barren.”

chance also addressed recent legislation, such as the oyster restoration and aquaculture development plan which encourages private oyster cultivation and would arguably put the watermen out of business, in a piece that recently appeared in the baltimore sunoverfishing not to blame for oyster woes. he argues that “watermen have been doing aquaculture on their leased bottoms with little or no success for many years” and that “watermen are not against sanctuaries, aquaculture or what is being referred to as the “poachers” bill….What they are against is how the Department of Natural Resources has handled this new plan.”

the watermen simply want to continue working on the water and providing for their families. more than anyone they understand the problems facing the bay and agree that something must be done to help restore the oyster and crab populations. they have consistently demonstrated their adaptability and respect through cooperation with laws and regulations which pose strict limits on their season and catches. furthermore, by working with the DNR and ORP they have proven that their methods are non-destructive and, if given time, may prove to restore the oyster population after all.

*  *  *  *  *

on the last day of the ORP’s oyster shell rehabilitation project i arrived at the oxford dock just after 5am and climbed aboard the workboat amy lynn. i introduced myself to captain david leonard and his son brian on the 45-minute trip along the choptank river to le compte bay where we would spend the day dredging along with dozens of other boats. for the next 8 hours i watched as david lowered the massive power dredge onto the bottom and retrieved countless heaps of oyster shells, rocks, mud, crabs, and occasional rubbish. he and brian would pour over each load, sifting through and tossing everything back overboard, returning it to the bottom. the project aims to break up oyster clusters and release the shells from heavy mud and silt so that spat can easy attach and grow. david noted that there were a good amount of oysters and felt the area would be good for harvest, if in fact the water was right for spat. recently the salinity has decreased in many areas, rendering the water too fresh for oysters to flourish. i appreciated how david shared his opinions and experiences over his life-long career as a watermen. i spent the entire day enthralled with the work and stories of this seasoned waterman – feeling a surge of anticipation each time he retrieved the dredge and even more passionate about the plight of this endangered trade.

i can’t thank the captain enough for taking me aboard amy lynn – it was a phenonmenal experience and i can’t wait to get back out on the water…next up, crabbing!


*  *  *  *  *

…more from my on-going watermen project…

choptank to the railway :: neavitt to tilghman aboard the dreamer.

environmental matters committee :: SB 342 :: eastern shore watermen rally in support of senate bill 342.

oyster recovery partnership :: ORP project – le compte bay, choptank river.



Filed under documentary, eastern shore, photography, st michaels, watermen

2 responses to “oyster recovery partnership.

  1. Dad

    Jaime, wonderful work!! Love seeing pictures of the bay and learning about all you have written. keep it coming, take in all the salt air and culture. thanks for sharing this info, people need to know and care about the future and the health of the bay, and how honest hard-working people depend on that waterway!!!!!!!!!! GO GIRL love Dad

  2. Pingback: trotline crabbing in broad creek. « blonde photo: have more fun!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s