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Talbot Co. watermen help restore oyster bars

Worked at Peanut Bar in Neavitt last week

By ERIN FLUHARTY Staff Writer The Star Democrat    Tuesday may 12,2012

Oyster restoration PHOTO BY ERIN FLUHARTY

Oyster restoration

Captain John Hamilton of the Myrtle Virginia carries a load of oyster shell to be distributed on Peanut Bar off Neavitt.

NEAVITT Local watermen last week restored oyster bars in Neavitt as part of the Habitat Oyster Restoration project with help from the Maryland Department of Natural Resouces.

More than $2 million is earmarked annually for local watermen from license fees and bushel tax, Bunky Chance, Talbot County Watermen’s Association president, said.

 “These funds are ones watermen have contributed for restoring these bars,” Chance said. “A lot of these bars have sunk or are no longer active and we are trying to reclaim by restoring.”

Chance, who is working with Captain John Hamilton of Bozman on the buy boat Myrtle Virginia, hosed slightly more than 5,000 bushels of shells on Peanut Bar off Neavitt last week. All shells need to be planted well before June for the best chance of spat growth, Chance said.

“We are leaving dock at midnight or 1 a.m., go to Sixfoot Knoll to dredge oysters and then go plant the shells in designated areas; in this case Neavitt,” he said. “When we get back to the dock, a lot of the time it is after dark, almost 24-hour runs.”

Oyster shells are evenly hosed off both sides of the boats to assure the distribution to the bar is equal. Chance said it can take up to three hours to unload all oyster shells off the boat.

“This program is a necessity for those of us who want to continue to oyster and see our Bay grow again,” he said.

Captain Guy Spurry of the Challenger and his mate Joe Spurry are working the same rotations. Spurry’s boat will hold roughly 4,000 bushel of shells at a time.

“I do this to make a living,” Guy Spurry, who has participated in the program for 19 years, said. “It is a great program. We still need to rely on Mother Nature, but this program really helps.”

Years ago, more watermen could lay shell, but over the years the numbers have diminished, he added.

“I hope this program lasts. We all have to adapt to change,” Guy Spurry said.

Watermen are adding oyster shells to public oyster bars in Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s, Wicomico, Somerset, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties.

Each site location will receive oyster shells on a three-day rotation. Once each county receives shells, the rotations will begin again.

These shells are dredged from Sixfoot Knoll, an area where the DNR previously placed 200,000 bushels of recycled shell in Anne Arundel County, not from the historic oyster bar. The area also is known for a high oyster mortality rate because of fresh water kills.

“Only 200,000 bushel of shell that was previously planted can be removed,” Michael Naylor, shellfish program director for DNR.

“It is our hope that sending these shells to the lower Bay will help spat growth,” said Naylor, who also is on the DNR’s Oyster Advisory Committee. “In turn, this could potentially be a beginning for spat growth at other locations throughout the Bay.”

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