Feds Ante Up More Taxpayer Dollars to Help Restore Oyster Population

House Bill Includes $1 Million for Oyster Recovery Project

WASHINGTON - Congressman Steny Hoyer announced today that the House of Representatives passed the Fiscal Year 2006 Energy and Water funding bill last night which included $1 million for the Oyster Recovery Project, which is coordinating the revival of oysters in the bay. To date, Hoyer has helped obtain more than $25 million in federal tax dollars for the project.

"Since 1999, I have led the effort in the House of Representatives to secure nearly $25 million in federal funding for the Oyster Recovery Project and, since 2000, the Oyster Recovery Partnership has planted over 400 million spat at 33 locations in the Bay," said Congressman Hoyer.

Charlie Frentz, Executive Director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership added, "Congress has supported this project for a number of years, and now that we're showing progress we should be encouraging the continuation of such an effective partnership. We've just turned a corner in oyster relief and are showing quantifiable progress, so we were hoping that the federal support which is so valuable to us would continue. We can continue to make a positive, discernable difference in oyster restoration in the Bay."

The Oyster Recovery Project is working to create both managed harvest reserves and oyster sanctuaries which will provide in coming years a fresh supply of oysters for the watermen and the entire oyster industry infrastructure: shucking houses, businesses that serve harvesters and processors, and restaurants. The oyster reef structures that will be created thanks to this effort will provide critical habitat and feeding grounds for other essential species, and will also serve as natural filters screening out algae, sediments, and pollutants. Unfortunately, due to disease, pollution, and over fishing, oyster populations are only about two percent of their levels just a century ago.

In 1993 the Maryland Oyster Roundtable completed an action plan to restore the ecological and economic benefits of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The plan designated seven tributary rivers (Chester, Choptank, Magothy, Nanticoke, Patuxent, Severn and Potomac) as oyster recovery areas, where efforts would be undertaken to replenish the oyster populations of the Bay. The goal is to increase the oyster population 10-fold from the 1994 levels by the year 2010.

The Oyster Recovery Project is undertaken jointly by the Oyster Recovery Partnership (a non-profit that coordinates the efforts of the government agencies), the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Sciences.

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