Hatchery project to boost ailing oyster population

June 02, 1994|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Sun Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer used a 10-minute cruise near a southern Anne Arundel fishing village yesterday to announce a new hatchery project designed to help the Chesapeake Bay's ravaged oyster population.

A House Appropriations subcommittee has included $500,000 in a budget bill to finance the project, which will be at the Piney Point Aquaculture Center in St. Mary's County, said Mr. Hoyer, a Prince George's Democrat.

"Our watermen are losing jobs, our state is losing a historic industry, our people are losing a delicacy and the Chesapeake Bay is suffering as a decline in the oyster population affects the water quality," said Mr. Hoyer on a pier near Deale.

The hatchery at Piney Point is a key element of an unprecedented 26-page oyster recovery plan approved by state regulators, commercial fishermen and environmentalists Dec. 1.

Officials hope to use the aquaculture center to grow oysters that are free of the parasitic diseases, MSX and Dermo. The diseases kill oysters before they reach maturity and marketable size.

The plan calls for the new "seed" oysters to be planted in bay tributaries where the diseases have not appeared. It is then hoped that new, disease-free oyster beds will grow.

In an effort to win federal financing of the project, state officials immediately courted Mr. Hoyer, after the agreement was signed.

Mr. Hoyer's district includes several waterfront counties, including Southern Anne Arundel, Calvert and St. Mary's, and he sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

The federal money is to be used to upgrade the Piney Point plant, which had been an eel processing plant before the state purchased it in 1987.

Mr. Hoyer said state Secretary of Natural Resources Torrey C. Brown impressed him with the importance of the project during a December tour of the Piney Point Aquaculture Center.

State officials have estimated the cost of implementing the entire five-point recovery plan at $2 million.

Standing at the end of a pier at Herrington Harbor North Marina yesterday, Mr. Hoyer said the same Appropriations subcommittee has included $700,000 for the Army Corps of Engineers to develop new ways to improve navigation, flood and erosion control, and environmental and wetland restoration.

The bill still must pass the House and Senate.

However, an aide to Mr. Hoyer said the biggest step was including the oyster project in the budget.

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