By Max McGee

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The oyster industry in Maryland may never be the same again, according to company leaders.

Along with stay-at-home orders implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry saw reduced capacity, which limited the consumption of oysters.

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Scott Budden leads Orchard Point Oyster Company. He said that changed everything.

“It’s been one of those things where people have had to get creative with how they get oysters to consumers,” he said.

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Restaurant sales were zero during the height of the virus. The state’s Department of Natural Resources said there has been a 25% drop in oysters sold.

“They keep growing until they actually die because of old age or disease or whatever the reason, so what you’re seeing is just more a greater volume of larger oysters,” Budden said.

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Enter the oyster recovery partnership to help the state’s farmers divide the supply. Along with helping with the water quality, they help with shell recycling and getting more oysters in the bay.

Karis King works with communication at Oyster Recovery Partnership.

“We’ve been hosting a series of virtual workshops called “Shuck like a Pro”. We’ve been hosting to-do’s, how-to’s — everything under the sun to really encourage people to have fun with it,” King told WJZ Monday while overlooking the Eastern Bay.

Not only does it connect with consumers, but it also helps farmers stay afloat, using them for restoration which started months late while nonessential activities were put on hold. The statewide COVID-19 positivity rate is just over 3.5%, but Budden thinks there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

“Looking at the timeline, sometime this summer hopefully. Late Q2. Maybe early Q3. That’s just being optimistic but really realistic too,” he said.

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The Maryland House of Delegates held a bill hearing last week that would require the DNR to make a mobile app to determine your location to oysters, sanctuaries and more.