New steps to stop oyster poaching

May 13, 2011

Regarding the May 10 editorial "A sour oyster stew," our scientists told the Capital News Service reporter that 80 percent of sites being restored with oyster spat from our hatchery experienced illegal harvest, not that 80 percent of the oysters were removed. Many of these sites today contain dense populations of large oysters. Still, poaching of oysters has been a serious problem, robbing the public's investment and interfering with scientific monitoring of the health and survival of growing oysters needed to improve restoration effectiveness.

The Sun editorial appropriately calls attention to this inexcusable abuse and the need for innovative enforcement approaches. In addition we are hopeful that two recent developments will limit illegal harvesting in restoration sites. First, the General Assembly just enacted much stiffer penalties, including revocation of licenses, that will now go into effect. Second, Maryland's new Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan creates a network of larger sanctuaries, covering 25 percent of Maryland's remaining oyster bar habitat. These sanctuaries will not only conserve remaining oyster populations and serve as the focus for restoration efforts, but their much larger size will make it unambiguous where harvesting is prohibited.

Donald F. Boesch, Cambridge,

The writer is president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

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