Aquaculture and Remote Oyster Setting Informational Workshop

Watermen and other interested parties are invited to a workshop on Oyster Industry Aquaculture and Financing on Wednesday, May 2 from 9 am until noon at the University of Maryland’s Wye Research & Education Center. The program is sponsored by the Upper Shore Regional Council, University of Maryland Extension and the Maryland Department of Business Economic Development (DBED).

Speakers include Don Webster and Don Meritt of the University of Maryland who will cover aquaculture support programs and proper site selection for bottom culture. Webster coordinates an education and training program for UM Extension to provide a wide range of information to develop the industry. Meritt is in charge of the Horn Point Lab hatchery that produces millions of oysters annually for restoration and commercial aquaculture.

Karl Roscher, Director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ new Aquaculture Division will discuss shellfish lease application procedures. He will also cover reporting requirements and available shell sources. Roscher heads the office created last year to coordinate all aquaculture permits.

Maryland has created support programs to encourage aquaculture including low interest loans and grants. Matt Parker, Shellfish Business Specialist with Extension, will provide the latest status on applying for them. Mindie Burgoyne, Regional Representative of the Department of Business and Economic Development will discuss the agency’s programs to assist watermen.

According to Cecil County Commissioner Jim Mullin, who assisted with organizing the event, “We need to support this sustainable and historic industry to provide economic growth and employment in our rural areas.” Doris Mason, Executive Director for the Upper Shore Regional Council, added that, “because our mission is to foster the physical, economic and soical development of the region, working jointly on a project like this with our partners is a great focus for us and the benefits are immediately evident.”

The workshop will include discussions of how aquaculture techniques could be used by watermen to rebuild public harvests. The production of oysters has fallen from 2.5 million bushels a year in the 1970s to only about 120,000 last year. However, with the development of new technology and strong markets, it is likely that this decline could be reversed. Maryland has emerged as a leader among states encouraging aquaculture production.

There is no charge for the workshop but those interested in attending are asked to contact Don Webster or Martha Milligan at the Wye Research & Education Center at 410-827-8056 so that sufficient materials can be provided. The Center is located at 124 Wye Narrows Drive, Queenstown MD.