ROCK HALL, Md. (WJZ)—A quiet wave of worry is washing ashore north of the Bay Bridge.
Alex DeMetrick reports watermen are finding mostly dead oysters and recent tropical weather may be to blame.
Work boats tied up during the first week of oyster season and watermen on shore for lunch are not good signs. But the men in Rock Hall are there because they aren’t finding live oysters in the northern part of the bay.
“I don’t see none out there. I mean I’d be doing it now if it was something to go for,” said Richard Manley, waterman.
“You bring up a club of oysters with eight or nine oysters in it and all of them are dead. If not all of them, it would just be one in there,” said Greg Jetton, waterman.
And the reason may go back to runoff from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Not only did it clog the bay with debris and sediment, it replaced the brackish water oysters need to survive with fresh water.
“Then comes along these two hurricanes that dump all this fresh water in there. And, of course, oysters can’t live in fresh water. So, it killed all our oysters in the bay, and from here down to Thomas Point,” said Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association.
“I was here when we had Agnes. We were able to oyster through Agnes. We can’t oyster through this,” said Richard Manley, waterman.
And if going south means finding oysters, catching enough to cover expenses is unlikely.
“Maybe if you go all the way down the bay, or at the last stand where they’re making the last day of oysters maybe. But it’s not worth it,” said Bob Gibson, waterman.
A hard winter on water won’t make life any easier on shore.
“When they’re not making money, they’re not paying me to fix things. A lot them try to do things themselves or they just don’t get things fixed,” said Scott Hyland, Hyland Marine Services.
“This is the worst we ever had, every going to have,” Simns said. “And it’s gonna put some of them under.”
Watermen are asking Congress for some form of disaster relief and want the state to open up at least one oyster sanctuary to fishing.