Maryland's oyster harvest began yesterday at dawn, with state officials expecting 400,000 to 500,000 pounds of the mollusks to be harvested by season's end next March.
As was the case last year, the season was delayed two weeks from its traditional mid-September start. No oysters can be harvested on Saturdays this month, and the daily bushel limits have been reduced from 25 to 15, W. Peter Jensen, director of fisheries for the state Department of Natural Resources, said yesterday.
He said the department had seen fewer areas with diseased oysters this year, and he predicted a harvest similar to those of recent years.
However, parasites that devastated the oyster harvest several years ago are still killing off an unknown number of oysters, said William Goldsborough, a scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
"Five hundred thousand pounds is just a drop in the bucket compared to historical harvests" of 10 times that number, he said, demonstrating that the oyster needs protection by the state from further exploitation.
But Larry Simns, president of the state Watermen's Association, reported yesterday that the oysters were looking healthy this year.
"There was a little cool weather this year, and the oysters have started fattening up a bit," Mr. Simns said.