"Maryland plans to dramatically increase the area of the Chesapeake Bay that is closed to oyster harvests, Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday, offering an expanded foothold to an iconic species that has dropped to 1 percent of its peak population.
O'Malley (D), speaking at an Annapolis oyster factory-turned-museum, said the state would ban harvesting on 24 percent of its most bountiful oyster grounds, up from 9 percent now. The off-limits area would total 8,640 acres.
Natural Resources Secretary John R. Griffin said later that the long-term plan is to expand the sanctuary to 40 percent of the state's high-quality grounds.
Officials said the move, proposed by state environmental regulators, would be the largest reduction in harvestable area in Maryland in memory. Along with a related push to encourage oystermen to farm oysters rather than catch them, the measure would strike at an archetype that has survived -- barely -- into modern times: the free-roaming waterman, at liberty to take any oyster he can find."