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Shellfish sanctuary protected by legislation

St. Mary's City, MD - Last November, we focused a great deal of effort to get permanent protection status for the St. Mary's River Shellfish Sanctuary. We are please to announce success in this campaign; as the Maryland legislative session closed Monday, April 8, the final hurdle was crossed when the State Senate voted to over-ride Governor Hogan's veto. The five state restoration sanctuaries - St. Mary's River, Monokin River, Little Choptank River, Harris Creek, and Tred Avon River - all received overwhelming support in the legislature, regardless of Hogan's insistence that "it is bad policy" and watermen should be able to harvest sanctuaries periodically.

"This represents one of our most effective achievements," said association president Joe Anderson. "We should all thank Bob Lewis and the many partners he assembled for their relentless efforts, first in creating a broad stakeholder partnership, and then building momentum going into this legislative session."

Governor Hogan reconvened the Oyster Advisory Commission in July of 2016 and one of the tasks he presented to them was to find a way for watermen to exploit the sanctuaries. Soon after plans were being developed to harvest 25 percent of the St. Mary's sanctuary each year, rotating areas so that the entire sanctuary could be harvested every four years. Those plans were shelved when legislation (2017) called for a stock assessment prior to any change in sanctuary designations. That stock assessment, completed last fall by the University of Maryland determined that only 300,000 market size oysters remained on Maryland Bay's public bars.

"It's a great day for St. Mary's countians," said Bob Lewis, executive director for the Association. "This calls for a celebration. Please thank our local public leaders, Delegate Brian Crosby and Senator Jack Bailey, for their support and efforts to pass this legislation. And thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the newly formed Chesapeake Oyster Alliance.

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