DNR Announces Aquaculture Opportunities in Sanctuaries
7/22/2011 | Posted by jdavidsburgTags: Commercial, Shellfish, Oysters, Aquaculture
New Leases will Help Foster Aquaculture and Develop Productive Bottom
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Aquaculture Division will begin accepting limited applications for new aquaculture leases within oyster sanctuaries on August 1, 2011. The General Assembly directed DNR to offer new leasing opportunities during the last legislative session.
“By expanding aquaculture opportunities we are taking innovative steps toward reviving our native oyster population,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Through a combination of sanctuaries, aquaculture and enforcement we are creating green jobs and a greener, more sustainable future.”
One of the key features of the Governor’s 2010 Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan is a substantial increase in the amount of sanctuaries. Sanctuaries provide oysters with the chance to grow and reproduce without the threat of overharvesting. By prohibiting aquaculture in sanctuaries, the plan limited some aquaculture opportunities, including some previously leased bottom. These new regulations open the door to a limited amount of shellfish aquaculture development, which will enhance oyster bar restoration, encourage development of productive oyster bottom and foster development of the oyster aquaculture industry.
“Aquaculture leasing in sanctuaries will enhance restoration efforts by improving water quality, creating additional habitat and enhancing natural recruitment,” said Tom O’Connell, director of DNR’s Fisheries Service.
“Having additional eyes on the water and oysters in the water is a huge plus for sanctuaries,” said Karl Roscher, DNR’s director of aquaculture. “No stakeholder will be more engaged in promoting good water quality and sincere resource stewardship than one who has invested time and money into raising shellfish.”
The new regulations prohibit leases within 150 feet of Maryland’s historic oyster bars in the sanctuaries. This 150-foot setback provides sanctuary bars protection from accidental harvesting. DNR is also limiting these lease opportunities to no more than 10 percent of available sanctuary acreage. Leaseholders using a power dredge to harvest oysters from a sanctuary lease must provide DNR 48 hours notice prior to harvesting oysters.
DNR will begin accepting applications for submerged land and water column leases in sanctuaries on August 1, 2011. Applications will be accepted beginning at 9 a.m. at the Tawes State office building or by mail. All applications will be date and time stamped and reviewed on a first come first served basis.
The previous shellfish aquaculture lease form is no longer valid.