BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Are oyster farms too much of a good thing? St. Mary’s County is hoping to slow their growth. That’s because the best way to commercial oysters is close to shore.

Floats mark where cages of oysters are suspended above the bottom, growing two to three years in the middle of the water column, in acreage leased by the Department of Natural Resources.

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The oysters start out small, like the first oyster farming operations. But they are growing in numbers and acreage.

“There is absolutely a future to grow oysters in the Chesapeake Bay,” Johnny Shockley, of Hopes Island Oyster Company, said. “One of the best estuaries in the world to grow oysters.”

It’s also one of the favorite places to build expensive homes.

“They pay us a lot of taxes, so I can understand them complaining,” Randy Guy, President of the St. Mary’s County Commissioners, said. “It wipes out any other forms of recreation in that area. You can’t use it for boating, fishing, crabbing or anything.”

He’s not objecting to farms adjacent to a grower’s property who work off their own docks. He’s worries about non-county residents and a number of pending leases from the Department of Natural Resources.

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So the county is putting public docks off limits to oyster growers for the next six months.

“This is one way to slow is down,” Guys said. “If you’re coming from out of our county and you get one of these leases, the only way to get to the water is to use one of our public docks or launching areas.”

Farmed oysters fuel business, like the local oyster in Mount Vernon. They grow big fast because the oysters are sterile and can’t reproduce.

“All it is, is a put and take fishery,” Brian Hite, a water man, said. “The oysters they’re using shouldn’t be allowed. There’s really no place for it in the bay.”

But as growing goes from idea to industry, there is likely no turning back.

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