This is just a short response to an article in the Sunday edition of the Annapolis Capital.  I’ll preface by saying that I consider the writer, Captain Chris Dollar, a friend.  I also know him to be an excellent fisherman. I was just speaking to a fishing buddy yesterday about how excited I am that he has opened a new kayak and biking store near Kent Narrows.  A genuine nice guy, I wish him the best in everything he does and I encourage everyone to stop by his new store.   The following is my letter to the editor of the Annapolis Capital in response to his disagreement with my recent entry about wild-caught Chesapeake oysters.  That entry has now received over 15,000 individual page views:

In his Outdoors column of March 4, 2012 Captain Chris Dollar writes in the Annapolis Capital:

(As a sidebar, I read a recent blog post in which the writer claimed people shouldn’t eat wild Chesapeake oysters because it’s bad for the bay. In all my conversations with experts over the years I’ve never heard that as a cause of what ails bay oysters.) Moreover, banning the catch of wild fish or oysters seems at odds with the state’s efforts to promote Maryland seafood. Catch local, eat local, right?

Dear Editor —  Since Captain Dollar is speaking of my comments in my blog, entry Jan 25, “Oysterholism,” I think it is only fair to point out that I am a big advocate for farm-raised Chesapeake oysters. I consider them to be among the best in the world, and encourage everyone to eat them.  However, I believe Captain Dollar may be conversing with the wrong experts because,according to research published by the University of Maryland in 2011 in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series (Vol. 436),  “the oyster population in the upper Chesapeake Bay has been estimated to be 0.3% of population levels of early 1800s due to overfishing, disease, and habitat loss.”  If discouraging the eating of the last 0.3% of wild-caught oysters is at odds with the state’s efforts to promote Maryland seafood, I suggest the state take another look at it’s policies. I don’t know about my good friend Captain Dollar, but I don’t want to be the one who eats the last wild-caught oyster from the Chesapeake Bay.

Respectfully,  Shawn Kimbro


For the record, I agree with most of Chris’s comments in the rest of his column.

Stay tuned.  The early spring striper migration is well underway and I’ll have a report later in the week!

Posted Monday, March 5th, 2012 at 1:00 pm
Filed Under Category: Articles
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Responses to “Response to the Annapolis Capital”

  1. Belinda Railer says:

    You’re right Mr. Kimbro. I helped work on some of that research. Unfortunately these alarms are falling on deaf ears in Annapolis and even among conservation organizations. I don’t want to eat the last Chesapeake oyster either.

  2. Matthew W. says:

    It’s just the way it’s always been done. They take and take until it’s all gone then blame something else. Good luck taking on the Annapolis establishment. I think it will take a generational shift before real changes are made.

    • Shawn says:

      I hope we can make changes in our generation, Matthew, but I also think you’re right, that younger people are more inclined to look at this issue with more of an open-mind.

  3. Bill Herring says:

    You haven’t figured out the Capital always reads off the DNR cue cards?

  4. Phil Parkinson says:

    There are real success stories about farm bred oysters down near Cambridge.

    These farms not only breed excellent oysters, but more importantly filter the Choptank.

    The State talks about cleaning up the Bay. Some are already doing it.

    • Bill Herring says:

      In my perfect world, there would be proper management and adequate enforcement so eating wild oysters doesn’t deplete the oyster beds. But we aren’t anywhere close. The generational shift is right-on. Most people think that oysters will always be here because they grew up eating them and always been easy to get.

  5. Shawn says:

    I appreciate the comments. I remember 5 years ago when they said we were at 3%, then it went down to 1%, now it’s 1/3 of 1%. Do you think it would make a difference if we put an electronic flashing doomsday clock up over the Annapolis Statehouse counting down to the last Chesapeake Bay oyster?

  6. Brian P says:

    I’m with you Shawn.
    Soon we’ll be talking about the good old days when there were wild oysters in the bay. It’s going to take some serious organization and action to change the powers that be.
    Go CCA.

    • Shawn says:

      I know there are a lot of people working hard to turn things in the other direction. Fortunately, we’ve seen progress in young oysters this year and last, so it’s obvious we could turn things around if we just leave the oysters alone to grow and multiply.

  7. Dan B. says:

    Dollar is an oyster guy so I’m surprised to see him on the wrong side of this one.

  8. Steve S. says:

    It seems the Alewife have been given a reprieve now let’s work towards closing comercial oyster harvesting for a couple years to allow the stocks to rebound a bit.
    Shawn you may have seen this site before but if not I’m sure you and your readers will like it

  9. Patrick Bocco says:

    Mr. Kimbro,
    Keep them thinking, this is how things get going. I too enjoy oysters on a regular basis. I would have never thought to ask for farm raised oysters from home. These are the little steps that make a difference.

  10. Emily C. says:

    It makes sense and there is good science. Why is that hard to get?

    • Shawn says:

      I think most people who look at it with a critical eye “get it.” People will look the other way until they can’t anymore. 1/3rd of 1 percent and counting….

  11. Uncle Roy says:

    I think you are wrong. Our hard working waterman deserve our support. The problem with oysters is disease, not over harvest. I just ordered two bushels of Harker’s Point oysters yesterday.

    • Shawn says:

      I agree that watermen need our support. My thinking is that the Bay could be a a much better place if we supported them though incentives to move to aquaculture instead of subsidizing wild over-harvest.

  12. James C says:

    Have you heard much about the DNR leasing program for oysters? I have been wondering how much money it would take to get an aquaculture business up and running.

    • Shawn says:

      I considered that myself, James. The information is hard to get at and complicated, but here’s a start: The lease application itself contains more information than any of the DNR websites I can find. Also, DNR announces from time to time via press release when it is accepting lease applications. Apparently, they have considerable discretion about who they allow to grow oysters and they don’t really tell how how they decide.

  13. Wayne Young says:

    Shawn – I lead techncial support for development of the CA (Asian Oyster) EIS for MDNR until I left MES for other maritime work. I also was responsible for construction of various oyster reefs for MDNR and for a field experiment in using Reef Balls as structure for oyster spat (and worked with CBF to introduce Reef Balls as a specialized, albeit limited, approach to oyster reef restoration). In the process of the above, I came to the belief that harvesting the depressed natural oyster resource was harmful to long-term restoration efforts. The problem is that the large natural beds are depleted or gone, forcing the natural harvest to smaller beds that the watermen would have passed by in earlier years. It seems to me that the remaining resource should be preserved as natural seed stock in the hopes that some will develop resistance to the oyster diseases through natural selection. Furthermore, the available research indicates that oysters grow quicker in clean water towards the top of the water column (see the material that I prepared for the Reef Ball Foundation’s Reef Construction guide). Hence, the oyster farms that put their stock in floats at or near the surface are showing good results. These farmed oysters are not disease free, but they’re getting to harvest size before becoming debilitated by the disease. Perhaps their faster growth increases disease resistance (something the researches ought to look into). Plus, there has to be a localized benefit to water quality in vicinity of the oyster farms. It seems to me that restoration work should continue, but would be greatly aided if there were a moratorium on wild harvests (keyed to recovery objectives) in an effort to support disease resistance through natural selection AND support to watermen who shift to oyster farming. OK, it’s not the traditional way of life, but, this would still be an opportunity to earn a living on the water. There potentially may also be on the water work opportunities to support restoration of the natural oyster population. So, my vote is for farmed oysters.

    Regards – Really like your book.

  14. Daniel Kimbro says:

    Falsification of a theory is the only way. Check the data, postulate your theory, then falsify (repeat), then publish. The editorializing of research to fit an agenda or slogan like “catch local, eat local” is a bitter pill for those of us trying to make sense of environmental issues to chew on; a medicine of which we all receive a healthy dose, which will only elicit emotional reactions instead of informed decisions. If a rallying cry is needed, a better slogan, at least with regards to fish in the Bay, would be “catch local, release local.” Granted, one does not “release” oysters after you catch them, so the slogan should be further amended to “farm local, eat local.” Whichever bumper sticker you choose to apply, choosing to ignore the current condition of the Bay with regards to the the populations of its inhabitants and the pollutants they endure in hopes of temporarily bolstering the local economy via subsidies or other financial rehabilitation plans will only yield short-term solutions for a select few that enjoy the bay, none of whom swim or grow in the currents that flow between the C&D Canal and the CBBT. Grow the oysters, leave the wild ones where they lie, and try to encourage new populations. Let the bivalves of the bay do their job and clean the water, and a vicious cycle of the positive kind will establish itself…cleaner water, more oysters, cleaner water, more oysters. The grandchildren will reap the benefits of bigger, healthier bass, cleaner water, and tastier, wild-caught oysters. As one who rarely enjoys fresh shellfish in East Tennessee, I’m willing to wait, and to enjoy the farmed oysters grown locally in the meantime.

    Thanks for the stimulating conversations, comments, and for the open ears and minds.

  15. Brian P says:

    There have been wars fought over chesapeake oysters!

  16. RogerT says:

    Oyster’s are way too important to the bay and all that inhabit it .Lets hope the powers that be wake up and do what is right !

    “Paynter Labs” focus on the biology, ecology, and restoration of the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica,

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