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The delay of Tred Avon Restoration Work will negatively impact crab harvest and boaters this Spring

With the start up of the last 34 acres of Tred Avon Oyster Restoration it makes me recall the reason the restoration work was halted in the first place. In 2015, watermen along with Corp of Army Engineer officials, DNR and other scientists checked the areas that were slotted for stone to see if they were going to cover up any oysters. Watermen had made their concern known about this practice not only in Tred Avon but also in Harris Creek where oysters were covered up with stone.

As the dredge broke the surface after circling a proposed restoration site in Tred Avon, all aboard were amazed that the dredge came chock full of oyster. This halted the project until further review. The restoration work with stone was switched to Harris Creek and was called the “Tred Avon Add-On”. This also happens to be the reef that 14 boats would later run aground on.

We were thankful that the Corp performed their due diligence in halting the Tred Avon restoration work. And, we are happy that oysters will be removed from two sites that show significant amounts of oysters before covering them up with stone. We are concerned though that stone is being used for this work because it fowls our gear when watermen trotline for crabs or net fish in these areas.

In addition, you would think that after 10 years of doing restoration work, the Corp would have learned that doing the work between December and March would be the best time of year. Watermen do not use the river in the winter but now are preparing to trotline in the river just as the restoration work is about to begin. There is also a lot more activity from recreational boaters during spring and summer months which means more concerns about possible accidents at night. These boaters will have to navigate around multiple rigs and barges in the river.

With the 10 year review of Maryland’s Sanctuary Program coming out this summer, we only hope that those millions of dollars being spent have not been wasted. If these sanctuary restoration bars had been made with shell instead of stone as originally promised, the watermen as well as most scientists, agree the project would have a greater chance of success. With plentiful deposits of fossilized shell in the Upper Bay (Man O War Shoals) there is no need to use stone at all. The most productive oyster bars in the Bay were built with dredge shell planting between 1962-2006 (when the program ended).

What is the best way to restore oysters in the Bay? The watermen have been doing restoration work for 60 years. This program is called the Seed and Shell Repletion Program. Talbot County Oyster Shell Committee has focused their restoration efforts in Broad Creek, the creek that lies between Harris Creek and the Tred Avon River. Spending only a fraction of the monies spent in the two nearby sanctuaries, we contend that there are as many or more oysters in Broad Creek.

The DNR Stock Assessment is due out this summer and we predict another great increase in native oyster stocks. With one of the best spat sets we have seen in 30 years last summer, watermen look forward to an increase in mature harvestable oysters in the future.

Jeff Harrison

President, Talbot Watermen Association

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