Watermen Continue Fight Against Fossilized Oyster Use In Little - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Watermen Continue Fight Against Fossilized Oyster Use In Little Choptank

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CAMBRIDGE, Md. - After protesting an effort to clean up the Chesapeake bay using fossilized oyster shells last Thursday, the project continued on Friday, but local watermen and government officials haven't given up the fight.

It's being called one of the largest restoration projects in the country, thousands of tons of fossilized oyster shells being put into the Little Choptank River, but watermen who live and work off of the river say the project will do anything but help.

"What they're putting in there is just bad for the environment," says Robert T. Brown, President of the Maryland Watermen's Association.

Sunday afternoon, more than a dozen met in Cambridge to figure out a way to stop the grant funded project.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the goal is to help rebuild oyster reefs and restore the bay's heath, but watermen say no oysters will grow on the fossilized shells.
    
"Oyster larvae will not stick to it," says Brown, "it won't sit on clay, it won't sit on mud, it won't sit on sand.  It's got to have a shell or a stone that's clean."

Another concern is the project could devastate what's already expected to be a hard crabbing season because the shells would cover up the mud that the crabs crawl out of.

DNR is standing behind the project, but local government officials are rallying behind the watermen.

"The watermen are a major portion of the backbone of this local economy," says Tom Bradshaw, a Dorchester County Councilman.

The county is working with the Dorchester seafood harvesters to get an injunction to stop the project, though they admit that won't happen overnight.

In addition to the pending injunction, watermen are also looking for the state to do an economic impact study on the oyster project, and the president of the Maryland watermen's association says he's plans to plead their case before the department of Natural Resources this week.

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