Nationwide oyster shortage plus new MD harvest regulations means prices skyrocket
VIENNA, Md. – Nearly one month after the state implemented new guidelines to help restore the oyster population by cutting back the number of days watermen can harvest them, they say things are going surprisingly well.
“The oyster season started off great. The hand tongs are doing good, the patent tongs are doing good and dredging starts this Friday,” said local waterman Bob Whaples.
But just because the season is going right now doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods just yet. The colder the weather gets the less time these watermen may be able to spend on the water when they’re already down a day.
“We don’t want people going on days that they really shouldn’t be out there, and we’re afraid that probably will be the case. We don’t want anybody to be in harm’s way or get hurt,” said Whaples.
And when you add those cutbacks to a nationwide oyster shortage you get people spending even more money on bushels than before.
“The market place last year was $40 to the boat, this year is $50 to the boat. Coupled with the fact that we have a reduction in harvest that’s mandated by the Department of Natural Resources this year, it actually creeps up the prices even more,” said Harris Seafood Company owner, Jason Ruth.
Although customers are shelling out more money, it’s actually good news for local watermen who tell us the increase in prices helps soften the blow of working one less day.
“As long as it stays that way, the day off will be a little bit easier to absorb because you’ll make a little bit more money on the days you do have,” said Whaples.
And while the future of oyster harvesting is still unclear, watermen say they’re just taking it one day at a time.
“We’re happy so far. We’d be happier if we could go five days, but we’re happy so far,” said Whaples.