Posted by Schaefer's Canal House on 1/23/2015
The waters of the Chesapeake Bay have long sustained life in
Maryland, providing both industry and food. Cities and towns sprung up along
the banks of its tributaries and quick access to the Atlantic Ocean allowed
international trade to flourish and spurred the growth of Baltimore and
Seafood was a staple in every Marylander’s diet from the
earliest days of the colony—perch, sturgeon, catfish, oysters, and crabs
supplemented settlers’ meals. The Bay’s bounty helped the colonists survive
when the harvest failed to yield enough of the standard crops, like corn and
wheat, to accommodate the rapid population growth. By the mid-1800s,
subsistence fishing grew into a fully-fledged industry and became a vital part
of the economy. Today, the bay is surviving
well and one aspect has been the state’s reinvigoration of help in restoring
the oyster harvest.
Over the past five years, Maryland and Virginia's oyster
harvest has almost quadrupled, and the dockside value of the harvest has
increased by 14 percent in the past 10 years. The resurgence is again putting
Chesapeake Bay oysters in seafood stores and restaurants around the region,
nation and world.
In addition to being an economic driver and a delicious hors
d'oeuvre--whether raw, roasted, fried or stewed--oysters play crucial
ecological roles. They and their habitat are at once pollution filters, homes
for crabs and rockfish and buffers against storms.
However, oyster numbers remain only a fraction of what they
once were because of historic overharvesting, pollution and disease, and the
bay has suffered from the loss of the great ecological services oysters can
provide. For these reasons, continual
effort and help in maintaining and sustaining the oyster habitat is continually
provided. Maryland and Virginia are on the cusp of reversing this trend. The
states are leaders in facilitating large-scale restoration in partnership with
the federal government and the private sector.