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Watermen Protest Plan To Use Fossilized Oysters To Restore The Bay

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay comes to a sudden halt. There’s a plan to use fossilized oyster shells as building blocks to restore the bay.

As Linh Bui reports, several watermen are protesting, saying this puts their livelihood in jeopardy.

The fight has been brewing for months, but this week, the situation came to a head.

It’s the largest restoration project ever performed in the continental U.S.  Thousands of tons of fossilized oysters imported from Florida are being placed in the Chesapeake Bay.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, this will rebuild oyster reefs and restore the bay’s health.

“Oysters are animals that need a hard substance in order to settle on and grow. Without it, they can’t survive,” said Dave Goshorn, DNR. “And the oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay are far depleted from what they ever were historically.”

But the project came to a stop in Dorchester County when a group of watermen blocked a barge in protest, stopping a crane from putting shells in the Little Choptank River.

The watermen say the project could devastate crabbing this season because the shells cover up mud that crabs crawl out of.

Scott Todd, a leader of the protest, also says the whole process is redundant.

“There are shells. We saw that on our depth sounders here, our color sounders,” said Todd. “We can see the shells that may be silted 10 or 12 inches below. There are plenty of shells there. We didn’t have to go to Florida to buy shells.”

Watermen are also concerned the shells are not clean, potentially bringing diseases. But according to DNR, each shipment was thoroughly inspected and the project is integral to Maryland.

“We’re comfortable that what we’re putting down there not only is safe, but is going to improve the health of the bay and the health of the oysters,” Goshorn said.

According to DNR, there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim that fossilized shells could damage the river.

The Department of Natural Resources started getting feedback from the watermen in January. A spokesperson says they have been responding to the inquiries.

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