Chesapeake Executive Council
Annual Progress Report

   Chesapeake Bay Alosid,
    Blue Crab, and Oyster
 Fishery Management Plans
       Chesapeake
                Bay
                  am.
              December 1990

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      Annual Progress Report
Chesapeake Bay Alosid, Blue Crab, and
   Oyster Fishery Management Plans
       A Commitment Progress Report from
        the Living Resources Subcommittee
             Annapolis, Maryland
               December 1990
     Printed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency
                   for the
              Chesapeake Bay Program

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                        TABLE OF CONTENTS
Executive Summary	L	  iii
     Alosids (Shad and Herring)	  iii
     Blue Crabs	,	   iv
     Oysters	;	    v

Introduction	,	    1

Chesapeake Bay Alosid Management Plan	    3
     Declining Abundance	,.    3
     Overf ishing.	 t .    4
     Stock Assessment	*.......,..	    4
     Habitat Loss and Degradation.	    5
     Conclusion	    7
     Alosid Implementation Matrix	  :  8

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Management Plan	   13
     Fishing Effort is Increasing.	 ,	   13
     Wasteful Harvesting Practices	,	   14
     Stock Assessment Deficiencies	;	   16
     Regulatory and Conflict Issues	,,	   is
     Habitat Degradation	....,;	,. .   18
     Conclusion	......,....,..   19
     Blue Crab Implementation Matrix	,	,	   20

Chesapeake Bay Oyster Management Plan		;	   25
     Background	,1	 .   25
     Harvest Decline and Overharvesting. ....... t.	, . . ..   25
     Recruitment		   27
     Disease Mortality	,	   29
     Leased Ground Production	   30
     Habitat Issues and Shellfish Sanitation.	   31
     Market Production	 	   31
     Repletion Program	 . .. 	   32
     Conclusion	 . .	 ,	,	   33
     Oyster Implementation Matrix	...,..,,	   34

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                         EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 Aloslds (Shad and Herring)

      Historically,  the upper Chesapeake Bay was the most productive
 area for American shad harvest.  Since  1988,  population estimates
 of American shad in the upper Chesapeake  Bay have  increased from
 approximately 38,000 to 125,500  fish.  The increase  in abundance
 can be attributed  to  the moratorium on  fishing in  the  Maryland
 portion of the Bay  (enacted in 1980);  restocking by  the  Maryland
 Department of  Natural  Resources (MDNR), the  Pennsylvania  Fish
 Commission  (PFC),   and  the  Susquehanna  River  Anadromous  Fish
 Restoration Committee  (SRAFRC);  and  removing  river and  stream
 blockages  to make additional habitat available for anadromous fish.
 Although the  increase in upper  Bay shad abundanpe is  encouraging,
 the recovery of shad in other Chesapeake Bay river systems may not
 follow upper  Bay  trends.  Funding  must  be  assured  to  achieve
 recovery of shad populations  throughout the  Bay watershed  and to
 implement  any  additional  controls  that   may be needed  for  the
 fishery.

      Population  surveys  have begun  in  other  river  systems  to
 determine  shad  abundance  in  areas  outside of  the  upper  Bay.
 Juvenile   surveys  are  currently in  progress  and  are  used  in
 conjunction with  adult stock assessment projectis as another means
 of evaluating  stock health. The juvenile data will eventually be
 used to develop a baywide young-of-the-year alosid index.

      There is  increasing concern about the  growth  of ocean  shad
 fisheries  during  the past ten years. These fisheries  are probably
 intercepting stocks  that are not native to the states  in which the
 fish are landed.  The ocean fisheries are threatening to displace
 traditional inshore  shad fisheries and may be  hampering  efforts to
 rebuild local stocks  along the  coast,,  including  those  of  the
 Chesapeake Bay.  Maryland  and  Virginia are  evaluating potential
 actions to control their ocean shad fisheries  and will pursue this
 issue with other  coastal states.

     Management  strategies and  actions  for  hickory  shad  will
 continue in conjunction with  strategies and actions for American
 shad.  Management measures  for  these  two  species  are combined
 because their life  histories  are  similar and  there  is  little
 specific information on hickory shad.          i

     The status  of river herring (alewife and  blueback herring)
 stocks  is  believed  to vary according to river  system,  but more
 detailed information is needed. River herring stock assessment will
be  expanded in  the upper Bay  and efforts  will be made to assess
current fishing rates. The river herring juvenile  survey has showed
considerable  variation  among  river  systems and  environmental
conditions such as rainfall appear to contribute to the variation.
River herring populations  will  continue to be monitored through

                               iii   .

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fishery dependent surveys. The  proposed  strategy to manage river
herring on a system-by-system basis must  be postponed until a more
comprehensive  data  base  has  been  established.  River  herring
populations will  be positively affected by  continued restocking
efforts and the removal of stream and river blockages.

Blue Crabs

     Blue crabs are currently the most valuable commercial species
in the  Chesapeake Bay. In addition, the recreational fishery is
very important and accounts for a significant catch. By nature of
its life history, blue crab abundance is  highly variable from year
to year;  therefore,  there is the  potential  for overexplpitation
during any year of low relative abundance.

     The  commercial  blue- crab harvest from  the  Bay continues at
historic  high  levels, yet  effort  needed  to  attain the catch
generally increased during the 1980s. The crab population does not
appear to be  in any danger of collapse (there was a glut of blue
crabs toward  the end of summer 1990 and into the fall), however,
the Bay  jurisdictions are taking a conservative approach to keep
fishing effort from increasing and to reduce  waste in the fishery.
Efforts include:  developing a delayed or limited entry program in
Virginia  similar to that   in Maryland;   establishing  tighter
licensing  requirements   for  commercial  crabbers   and  studying
licensing  issues for  other components  of the fishery; targeting
wasteful harvest  practices that catch small  or poor quality crabs
and that cause excessive  mortality, and investigating potential
harvest, time, and area limits that will directly contain harvest.
Methods used to control harvest  must  take into consideration pripes
and  increasing competition  in  the  market from  other states an
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 relationship and other  aspects  of crab population  dynamics.  The
 winter dredge and summer trawl surveys begun two years ago will be
 continued,  along with  other  cooperative research  on blue  crab
 population  dynamics,  to provide  information  such  as  wintering
 ground mortality, migration,  growth,  and sex  ratios.  Monitoring
 efforts  are   also  being   improved,   especiailly   catch/effort
 information from both the commercial and  recreational  components
 of the fishery.  Management  decisions will be  based on the  most
 current information from the research and monitoring data.  With an
 improved  data base,  socioeconomic issues can be better defined and
 incorporated into management  decisions.
                                                i
 Oysters                                        j

      The  Chesapeake  Bay oyster harvest  declined  precipitously
 during the  mid- and late 1980s  due to a combination of factors,
 including overharvesting, oyster  diseases, pollution,  and  poor
 spatfall  in  many  areas.  It appears  that  harvest  levels   are
 stabilizing as the  oyster disease MSX subsides and  Maryland,  the
 Potomac River Fisheries Commission,  and  Virginia continue their
 oyster repletion efforts. The  repletion programs  include planting
 shell _and  moving  seed  oysters to enhance  natural production.
 Repletion efforts continue to  be  refined and  improved,  but  are
 contingent  on adequate funding.                 i

      Spat set was very good in many areas  of the  Bay in 1990.  The
 quality of Chesapeake Bay oyster meats has also  generally improved
 as  oyster populations become healthier.  There" is  reason  to be
 optimistic that harvests will increase over the  next  few years  and
 that  prices will  stabilize commensurately. Consumer  confidence in
 the  Chesapeake oyster appears  to  be increasing  as  these events
 occur.
                                                i

      Progress  has  been  made  on   assessing  oyster stocks   and
 understanding oyster diseases. Scientists in Maryland and Virginia
 are conducting studies to improve sampling methods for oyster bars
 and  to recreate oyster  beds.   Researchers  are  also developing
 strains of  the Eastern oyster that appear to be less susceptible
 to diseases in the Chesapeake Bay and are improving  our knowledge
 of oyster diseases and biology.  These  studies will  help rejuvenate
 the oyster fishery and improve management techniques. Introduction
 of  non-indigenous species,  such as  the  Pacific oyster,   is an
 important issue and is being studied as well.
                                                i

     An area  of  increasing interest and  importance to the oyster
 fishery is  aquaculture.  New  management measures  are making seed
 oysters more  readily available  to  the private lease  holder  and
 legislation requiring strict utilization  of leased ground within
 a certain time period should  lead  to  increased  production.   Many
 issues relating to aquaculture are being evaluated; these include
 the states'  role, potential  ability of aquaculture  to stabilize
production and markets,  and use of the water column.

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                            INTRODUCTION
 T.OW  ??   -,?     I87  CnesaPea*e  Bay  Agreement,  commercially,
 recreationally,  and  ecologically valuable finfish  and shellfish
 species were  selected  for the  development  of  baywide  fishery
 management plans (FMPs).  Because fishery management is a dynamic,
 process,  provisions were made  for. a periodic review  of each FMP
 under the auspices of the Living Resources Subcommittee. A periodic
 SS,TV .provides  the  format  for  incorporating  new  information,
 In*in? Pro
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               CHESAPEAKE BAY ALOSID MANAGEMENT  PLAN

 Declining Abundance
                                x

       Maryland will continue the moratorium on American shad in the
 Chesapeake  Bay.  The  criteria  for reestablishing a  rishery  in
 Maryland is an  increase in annual population estimates for three
 consecutive years and a stock size of  500,000  fish in the uoner
     was                                                 tne upr
     was 125,574, an increase from the 1989  estimate  of 75,329, but

 surv'evs5 "fer ^ ^heacrirerion for opening a fishery. Population
 m^?r v    * tUi  ^rican  shad  in  other  parts  of   the  Bay
 (Nanticoke and Potomac Rivers)  have  begun but population estimates
 are  not  yet  available.   The   general  increases   in  population

 vears  ?! /  ^erican. *had  ^  the  upper  Bay during  th* ^st S
 years  is  a  strong  indication  that efforts  by  the  Maryland
 Department  of Natural  Resources (MDNR) ,  the  Pennsylvania  Fish

             iare  relati?*y  stab1^ a-d  can sustain ^odera^
exploitation.  The  recommendation of  controlling  river herring
harvest on  a system by  system basis does not appear feasible  at

^L^H6^   KaUSS-f  limi.ted information  for  each river  system. A
ia??Ld     f36  ^S rec^lred Before adult commercial landings  or
population estimates  from  each system  can be related to  -juvenile
indices from the same systems.  Alosid research, particularly  adult
river herring  will be expanded in the upper Bay in order  toobtain

in ?959Cwe^SiT; data,base' In Virginia,  river  herring landings
in 1989 were 652,618 pounds,  about 40%  below the ten-year  average.

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Haul seines accounted for over 85% of the landings in 1989.
Virginia  is  currently  assessing  exploitation  rates for  river
herring.

     The hickory shad catch at the  Conowingo Fish Lift during 1989
continued to be low. The Maryland moratorium on hickory shad will
continue.

Overfishing

     The jurisdictions  have continued to participate in Atlantic
States   Marine  Fisheries   Commission   (ASMFC)   coastal  stock
identification  and ocean landing  studies of alosids.  An ASMFC-
funded project on evaluating shad ocean landings by state has just
been  completed.  The  use  of  the  term  "intercept"  fisheries has
caused  some  confusion and  will  be  better defined.  The  term
"intercept" has been  used in reference to alosids harvested from
coastal  areas and  from the  Chesapeake  Bay  while the  fish are
migrating either toward or  away from the  spawning  areas.


     Virginia  submitted  a  proposal  to  limit  the  coastal  shad
fisheries.  As a result of  this  proposal, VMRC began  a  one year
study to evaluate the  inequities of regulating the coastal fishery.
Results from this study should be available in 1991. Although there
is  a  moratorium on American  shad  in  the Maryland portion of the
Bay,  there  was a  total, of  488,000 Ibs  (1989)  reported as ocean
landings. The Maryland  ocean catch will be evaluated followed .by
appropriate  steps  to  limit  fishing  effort  if  warranted.  The
jurisdictions have acknowledged a need to include and contact North
Carolina  for  cooperation in  tagging  studies,  especially for the
ocean shad  fisheries.

Stock Assessment

     It is generally accepted that juvenile year class fluctuations
greatly  influence the amplitude  and variation  in  commercial fish
landings. The data for developing a reliable  juvenile alosid  index
is being collected. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science  (VIMS)
will  reinstitute an  alosid juvenile survey  with  Chesapeake Bay
Stock Assessment  Committee  (CBSAC) funding.  This  juvenile survey
had been discontinued because of  lack of funding. With new  funding,
the survey  will complement past  juvenile data  and ongoing alosid
stock  assessment. A  long term data base is  required before the
relationship between juvenile indices and adult commercial  landings
or  population estimates can be evaluated. The  1989 juvenile CPUE
for American  shad in  the  upper Bay was  the highest recorded  since
the survey  began  in 1980.

     Juvenile river herring in the upper  Bay showed  considerable
variation  among  river  systems from  1985 to  1989.  The  apparent
decrease in juvenile river herring CPUE  in  most  of the systems

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 sampled during 1989 was primarily the result of record rainfall in
 the late  spring and  summer.  The  influx  of freshwater  reduced
 salinities and, most likely, extended the  juvenile distribution.
 In order to develop a baywide juvenile index, environmental factors
 may need to be incorporated.

     Substantial increases in the adult river herring commercial
 catch  were seen in the Patuxent River and  upper  Bay during 1989.
 Adult  river  herring populations will  continue  to be  monitored
 through fishery dependent surveys.. Virginia began an alosid stock
 assessment project in 1989 and will continue to collect biological
 data for shad and river herring. This information will improve the
 ability to calculate exploitation rates  for these species.

     The proposed shad tagging project for the coastal  fisheries
 was not  implemented due to lack of funds. This project is currently
 being  reviewed by CBSAC for funding  during  the next year.  Tagging
 studies  would provide  information  on  the  origins  of  coastal
 migrating alosids and would help define management options  for
 regulating the coastal fishery.
                                                  i
     The Fisheries  Management of the District of  Columbia  (FMDC)
 has begun to obtain detailed information on  anadromous fish stocks
 in the upper Potomac and  Anacostia Rivers.  A  biological  survey of
 anadromous  fishes, in general, is being conducted to determine the
 onset  and duration  of  spawning migration,  age  composition,  and
 other  factors  which affect  reproductive   ability-  In  addition,
 physical and hydrographic parameters are also being collected and
 will be coordinated with the  fish-stock information. Collection and
 analysis of data relating  to American shad,  hickory shad,  and river
 herring  will be done during  this process.  The CPUE and juvenile
 index  calculations will be used to  assess  the future strength  of
 adult  alosid  populations.   The gear  and  sampling  methods  for
 assessing CPUE and juvenile production arp consistent with Maryland
 and Virginia.
                                                  |
 Habitat  Loss  and Degradation                     '

     Removing  impediments to migratory  fishes hast been a primary
 strategy for improving alosid habitat.  Progress  has been made  at
 several  priority sites.  For a detailed account,  refer  to the
 document,   "Removing  Impediments  to  Migratory  Fishes  in  the
 Chesapeake Bay Watershed."   Construction of fish passageways will
 be underway at Winter's Run,  Ft. Meade,  and Conowingo Dam following
 the  1990 anadromous fish  spawning period. Several other contracts
 are in the final stages for sites on Big Elk  Creek,  Little Patuxent
 River and Tuckahoe Creek.  Four dams on the Patapsco River have been
 given highest  priority and will open 21 miles of river habitat to
 alosid  species. The Maryland  Legislature  has authorized $2.25
million  in funds for  the Fish  Passage  Program on the Patapsco
River.  Fish  passage  improvements were made at four sites  on the
James  River  system  in  1989  (Manchester, Brown's  Island, Herring

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Creek  and Walkers  Dam).  Also  slated  for  fish passageways  are
William's  Island and  Boner's Dam.  Work has  been "initiated  on
designing passage at Embrey Dam in Fredericksburg. ..>        ,

     Weekly biological monitoring for the assessment of anadromous
fish populations is being conducted on streams under fish passage
development. A monitoring study  was  initiated in March  1989  to
assess the effectiveness  of  the  passageways on the Richmond dams
and  to  determine  where  the  fish  are  approaching  the  next
impediment, 5 miles upstream, at William's Island Dam. Trap/
transport  and  restoration  of  river  herring  to  areas  in  the
Patapsco, Patuxent, Big Elk  and  Tuckahoe have occurred.  To date,
approximately  10,500  fish have been relocated. Suitable trap and
release  sites  were  selected based  on  easy  access and  areas
considered good habitat for  reproductive success.  Release sites
have been monitored for alosid eggs and  larvae.  The Havre de Grace
and Elkton Shad restoration (grow-out and release ponds) facilities
were opened  in July,  1990.  In cooperation  with the Pennsylvania
Fish Commission (PFC),  the  culture  facilities were  stocked with
approximately  650,000  shad fry  from the Van Dyke Hatchery. These
fish will be released  into  the  lower  Susquehanna and  upper Elk
Rivers this fall. The new  facilities have an added advantage over
traditional stocking methods  in that they hold the fry until they
grow to juveniles and they are released  without being transported.
In addition to these two grow-out facilities,  the Mattaponi Indian
Tribe  completed a  new shad hatchery on the Mattaponi River. This
complements the facility built on the Pamunkey River  in 1989.

     The  restoration  of  American shad to  the Susquehanna River
consists  of trapping pre-spawn adults and transporting them above
dams, restocking fry and fingerlings, improving water  quality, and
providing passage over   dams.   For  specific  details  on  the
restoration  program,  refer  to  the 1989 Annual Progress Report,
"Restoration of American Shad to the Susquehanna River." During the
1989 season,  6,697 adults were  transported to upstream spawning
areas  and PFC  released a  record  21.1 million  shad fry (15-37 days
'old) and  70,000 fingerlings  (107-204 days old)  in the Susquehanna
watershed. Successful outmigration appeared higher in  1989 than  in
any  past year.  High  abundance  was  probably related  to record
stocking  of  hatchery  fry at  Lapidum and upstream,  and high river
flow conditions.  Ongoing SRAFRC projects to evaluate methods for
successful  outmigration  of  American  shad  juveniles  and adults
included  a  biological  evaluation  of  strobe  lights  to  guide
downstream migrants at York Haven hydroelectric dam, radio tagging
studies,  and a  study to determine the migratory routes, timing and
relative  abundance of juveniles  as they  reach the forebay  of
Holtwood  hydroelectric  project.  Restoration efforts  have also
included  monitoring the relative contribution of hatchery produced
fish to the wild population.

     Dam  operators on the Susquehanna River upstream  of Conowingo
Dam have  agreed to share the  cost of additions to the new fish lift

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                                               I
 at Conowingo Dam. This was potentially a serious gap  in the Shad
 Restoration Program  for the  Susquehanna  River. These  operators
 include Baltimore Gas & Electric  (BG&E) and  Pennsylvania Power &
 Light (PP&L) at Safe Harbor Dam, PP&L at Holtwood Dam,  and General
 Public Utilities  (GPU)  at York'Haven Dam.

      Support of  water quality commitments in  the 1987 Chesapeake
 Bay Agreement has continued. Although FMDC, MDNR, PFC,  the Potomac
 River Fisheries  Commission (PRFC), and VMRC do  not carry out the
 specific commitments,  each agency  has  been actively  involved  in
 defining water quality  goals. Specific  strategies for  nutrient
 reduction,  reduction  and control of toxic  substances,  and control
 of pollutants can be found in the 1989 Annual Progress  Reports for
 each.   Specific   habitat  requirements  including   water  quality
 parameters  have been  developed for alosids and  will be  available
 in the document,  "Habitat Requirements for Chesapeake Bay Living
 Resources."  Maryland  DNR  and  the  Department  of the  Environment
 (MDE) have initiated a joint project to estimate direct  atmospheric
 deposition  of  selected trace elements and organic compounds  into
 the Bay. Sampling will be  coordinated with an  EPA sponsored study
 at a  site in Virginia.

 Conclusion

      The  1989  Chesapeake Bay  Alosid Management Plan was  adopted
 with  a view  to improve the abundance of .alosid stocks  in  the  Bay.
 During  the   first year,  the alosid FMP directed  efforts  toward
 restoration and habitat improvement. The restoration program in the
 Susquehanna  River has resulted in the largest  population  estimate
 and largest  production  of hatchery-raised American shad  to date.
 Significant  progress has been  made in the removal of  impediments
 to  migratory fish and restocking  of adult shad and  herring has
 begun.  Current exploitation rates for alosid  stocks  are being
 examined, especially  the  coastal  shad fisheries,  in  order to
 improve  and  develop regulatory measures.  Data deficiencies have
 been  identified and current research projects  have been expanded.

     There are two general areas that need to bo  emphasized during
 1990-1991 in order to continue rebuilding Chesapeake Bay  shad and
herring stocks. Briefly, these are:            ;

     1) Continue  to  remove impediments to migratory fishes in each
     Bay jurisdiction.
                                               i

     2) Identify the composition of coastal shad and herring stocks
     to gauge what effects the coastal (intercept)  fisheries have
     on Chesapeake Bay stocks.
                                7

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                             12

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            CHESAPEAKE BAY BLUE CRAB MANAGEMENT PLAN

Fishing Effort is Increasing

     Containing the  harvest  of blue crabs can be accomplished by
several changes in the commercial and recreational fisheries. The
Delayed Entry Program, passed during the 1988 Maryland legislative
session and implemented during 1989, has limited the number of new
people entering the  commercial fishery. With the two-year delay,
the  first new licensees  will  enter the  fishery  during the 1992
season (Sept.l, 1991- Aug.31,  1992). Since the tidal fish license
(TFL) was established, there has been an increasing number of TFLs,
with a dramatic increase  between 1988 and 1989 in anticipation of
the delayed entry deadline. In  addition to the TFL, there are three
other commercial  crab license categories in which the number of
licensees have generally decreased.  One of these crab licenses, the
limited crab catcher (LCC) , was exempt from the delayed entry until
1990.  After one year of  the Delayed Entry Program, the number of
TFLs appears to be holding steady but the positive effects of the
Delayed Entry Program will not  be fully realized for several years.
Although  conclusive  data documenting  the  effectiveness of  the
Delayed Entry Program is  not  available  at this time,  the program
will  be  effective  at controlling  short-term effort  that  could
result from changes in fishery  regulations. A bill  which would have
given VMRC authority to delay  entry into the fisheries was tabled
at the last session of the Virginia  General Assembly. The bill was
sent to a House  subcommittee  for study.  No  action will be taken
until the 1991 session of the  General Assembly.

     There will be a proposal to eliminate the non-commercial crab
catcher (resident and non-resident)  license in Maryland. During the
1989 crabbing season,  there  was a  total  of  13,027 licensed non-
commercial crabbers  that landed approximately  6  million pounds.
This catch appears high for personal consumption and it is likely
that some  of  the  catch is being  sold.'currently, non-commercial
crabbers  are  allowed 2  bushels  of  crabs per licensee  per  day.
Elimination of the non-commercial  category would force crabbers to
purchase  a  commercial license or  limit themselves to  the  sport
crabbing limit of 1 bushel per person per day.

     Maryland and Virginia  continue to conduct summer  trawl  and
winter  dredge  surveys   to  collect  information  on  blue  crab
population dynamics. Ultimately, Maryland's goal  is to develop a
forecasting model based on the information from the winter dredge
and  the   summer  trawl  surveys.  This  model  would be  used  for
predicting yearly harvest and possibly establishing yearly quotas.
Preliminary work on a model has begun but  is not expected to yield
predictive information for another three to five years.

     Mechanisms being considered for containing blue crab harvest
are  gear  restrictions  and daily  harvest  limits.  The  Maryland
commercial crabbing survey will provide  information on the average

                               13   .            !

-------
number of pots,  yards of trotline, number of  scrapes,  number of
collapsible traps, number  of crab pounds and  number  of dip nets
used by commercial crabbers per day each month plus the maximum and
minimum  number  of each gear  type.   Gear  restrictions  may  be
effective at limiting  effort but enforcement problems may out-weigh
the advantages. Daily time limits are based on the premise that a
licensee can fish only a certain number of pots or other gear per
hour. Maryland will consider establishing daily time limits which
will  require  investigating  the  average number  of  hours  spent
crabbing  to determine  if limiting  commercial crabbing between
sunrise and  3:00  p.m.  and/or prohibiting crabbing on Sunday will
effectively limit effort. Virginia currently prohibits commercial
hard  crabbing  on Sunday. Currently,  there is  no  data to support
taking action on hard crab size limits.

      Evaluating the economic and social impacts of containing blue
crab  harvest were too'broadly stated in the FMP and need to be more
specifically  defined. Suggestions for improving the social and
economic  questions about  crabbing  include  such  topics  as the
effects of  limiting the number of pots, traps, trotline, etc. on
the  economics  of both commercial and recreational crabbers; and,
the  economic effects of eliminating  the non-commercial  crabbing
license.  Economic and  social  aspects  of crabbing  will  become
clearer as  information  on  total catch becomes  available.

      Another economic  concern  is  the  perception  of  business
investors in relationship to management actions. Rumors about blue
crab stock  collapse in  the Chesapeake  Bay can  prompt  investors to
import crabs from other states, thus impacting fishery economics
in the Bay. It should be emphasized that the blue crab harvest from
the  Bay has been relatively high since  the early 1980s and the
stock is  not in danger of collapse.  Since blue crab  abundance is
highly variable from year to year and because it is  an important
fishery,  conservative  management  actions have been proposed to
protect the  stock and  should not  signal  economic  concerns to
business  investors.

Wasteful  Harvesting  Practices

       The release of buckram crabs,  which weigh less  than "fat"
hard crabs, is  in the  initial  stages  of being promoted through
educational pamphlets  and  other informational  material.  Size,
weight,  and volume designations from crab dealers and buyers were
evaluated as a means of reducing the harvest  of poor quality crabs.
However,  the actual  size  of a crab  in a  given size  category can
vary  during   any  given   season  depending  on   availability,
 seasonality,  demand,  and dealer interpretation  of the market.
 Establishing  standard  weight  limits per bushel  does  not  seem
 feasible at this time.

      The reduction and  elimination of waste in the blue crab dredge
 fishery has been a topic  of concern.  In June 1989,  VMRC approved

                                 14

-------
a proposal to limit crab dredging from sunrise to sunset. In other
action, a committee comprised of industry members and. VMRC Fishery
Management Division staff, was established to discuss and develop
viable management  options  for .Virginia's  blue  crab fishery. This
Blue  Crab  Subcommittee   [of  the  Fishery  Management  Advisory
Committee (FMAC)] has met several times to discuss topics such as
daily catch limits, cull rings,  crab and pot theft, peeler pot and
shedder licenses, delayed entry, and modification of crab dredges.

     Cull rings can effectively  reduce the number of sublegal crabs
found  in  crab pots and,  therefore,  reduce the amount  of  time a
crabber  spends culling  out  small  crabs.  Virginia  produced and
distributed a brochure about the use and benefits of  cull rings to
all licensed  crab  potters.  In addition, research on testing cull
ring size and effectiveness in Virginia tributaries of the Bay will
continue. Results  from a recent  survey of Virginia crab potters
indicate that nearly 60% of the  full-time' crabbers are using cull
rings  voluntarily. Maryland  is  in the process of designing and
printing a similar brochure for cull ring  use and has  also printed
an article about cull ring use in the Watermen's Gazette. Depending
on the success of the voluntary  use of cull  rings, Maryland may
propose future regulations requiring all new crab pots to have cull
rings.  Definitions and dimensions of  cull .rings  and peeler pots
will need to be defined.

     As of September,  1989,  it  is illegal  in Maryland to possess,
transport, or pack a female crab from which the  egg pouch has been
removed or an  egg-bearing  crab,  known/as a sponge  crab, which has
been taken from state waters (COMAR 08.02.03.02). Sponge crabs also
cannot be taken from the  Potomac River.  In addition, the use of
mature female crabs as bait in the eel fishery will be surveyed in
Maryland using a list generated by the new requirement for  eel pot
licenses.

     Abandoned crab pots continue to fish for crabs and contribute
to mortality. The  current Maryland regulation states that all crab
pots  shall be removed  from State waters  by December 31 of each
year.  Proposed changes  to the wording of this regulation would
state  that pots found  in  the waters of the Chesapeake Bay after
Dec.  31st of  each year will be considered the  property  of the
finder. The Department  could  fine  (an amount to be determined) the
licensee  of  any  crab pot found  by the Department  after Dec.  31st.
Maryland  will  also assess the feasibility of using different types
of biodegradable panel configurations and implement  their  use on
an experimental  basis  with the  cooperation of selected watermen.

     The  Maryland Natural  Resource  Police conducted a survey of
shedding operations  during  the  summer  1990.  This  survey will
provide information on the extent of  shedding  operations,  peeler
mortality,  and whether it would be beneficial to  license shedding
operations.  Virginia is  also considering a license  for shedding
operations.  Maryland  is discussing the feasibility of preparing  a

                                 15              :

-------
shedding demonstration using low cost technology to improve yield
and reduce peeler mortality.

     The above actions will begin  to  reduce the waste problem in
the blue crab fishery and also contribute to the  containment of the
blue crab harvest.

Stock Assessment Deficiencies

     The Summer  Trawl  survey has  been modified to  collect more
detailed  data  on  size  class  distribution  and  availability,
environmental parameters, and specific crabbing areas in order to
obtain  the  biological  data necessary for  determining  blue crab
abundance and distribution.

     The second year of the Winter Dredge Survey was completed in
March 1990. The first year was a pilot study and it may take 3 to
5 years before a sufficient data base is collected and management
recommendations can be made. There are expectations  that the Winter
Dredge  Survey will provide the  basis for  developing  a forecast
model for blue crab harvest in Chesapeake Bay. Preliminary results
from the  dredge  survey are found  in the last  paragraph  in this
section.

     The Maryland  Commercial  Crab Catch Reporting  Form has been
modified as a means to more accurately measure blue  crab effort and
harvest. For instance,  crabbers must now include a separate total
for dozens of soft crabs and numbers of peeler crabs. How much gear
used per day for trotlines has been clarified by indicating either
feet  or  yards  and effort  information  has been clarified  by
rewording the question on the number of "runs  of trotlines" or
"pulls" of the specific gear type. The wording for fishing area has
been changed from "area code" to "water code" to avoid confusion.
Virginia collects hard crab landings from several sources including
wholesalers and picking houses.  Virginia is currently working on
obtaining an accurate account of crabs landed.

     Maryland has expanded the national Marine Recreational Fishery
Statistics Survey (MRFSS)  by contracting for an additional regional
recreational  crabbing  survey.  The data from this  survey will be
compatible with previous MRFSS  surveys conducted in 1983 and 1988.
Instead of the usual 5-year period  between surveys, the additional
regional survey will be conducted more regularly. The specific time
interval  between surveys  will be determined  once the data is
analyzed and data needs are better defined. Virginia plans to add
questions to the  MRFSS telephone survey to help estimate catch rate
and  fishing  effort  in  the  recreational  blue  crab  fishery.
Maryland's Natural Resources Police (NRP) conducted a recreational
crab survey during the summer, 1989. Preliminary results indicate
the recreational crabber spends an average  of 4.8 hrs crabbing and
catches  41  crabs per  trip  (<1  bushel).  This  survey has  the
potential of  providing  important information on catch and effort

                               16

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trends in  the recreational fishery  and efforts; will be  made to
conduct  the survey  again in  1991.  Any  controls  placed  on the
commercial harvest of crabs will be considered for the recreational
fishery as well.                                ,

     Virginia conducted  an  effort survey in  1989/1990  to assess
commercial and recreational  fishing effort in the crab pot fishery.
The response level was excellent from the 2425 crabbers surveyed.
Data are being processed and a report will be released this year.
Additionally,  Virginia's Stock  Assessment  Program initiated  a
survey of CPUE trends in the winter dredge fishery. The CPUE data
generated  from  this ongoing project  will serve as an  index for
abundance. Virginia is developing  a program to collect biological
data  from  the  commercial  dredge  fishery  and summer  fishery to
determine  the effect  of both male  and  female crab harvest on
population dynamics.

     Cooperative research on blue  crab population dynamics is in
progress. There are three subprojects that comprise the population
dynamics field  study:  a survey of  the Maryland  pot  fishery,  a
fishery  independent winter  dredge  survey,  and a tagging study.  A
survey of  the  pot  fishery provides information on size-frequency
and will be used to express CPUE by sex and size class. This data
will allow an examination of the  age  and sex structure of the blue
crab population on a  seasonal basis.  Preliminary conclusions from
the fishery independent winter dredge survey are as follows: more
crabs are found in river systems and tributaries than in the open
Bay; crabs  in the  river systems are  on average', much  smaller and
include many young-of-the-year crabs; and, sex ratios vary widely
between  the upper  and lower Bay, and among rivers. The estimated
standing stock  of  >5  mm   crabs in the Bay during the 1989 winter
was between 60  and 90 million  crabs.  The  winter dredge survey is
viewed as a pilot study to develop  a  long-term,  baywide survey and
to predict the availability  of blue crabs in 'following seasons. The
tagging  study will provide data  for estimating exploitation rates
for the  commercial and recreational fisheries.

     Although the  action on regulating the use  of eels for crab
bait was delayed, the first  step  towards investigating the problem
has begun.  Maryland  Senate Bill 158 was passed  during the 1990
session  of  the  General Assembly. This bill will require a person
to obtain  a tidal  fish license to  catch eels with a pot or other
device in the tidal waters of the State. Limited  crab catchers (up
to 50 pots) are exempt from the license provided the harvested eels
are not sold and are for personal use only. A person can apply for
an eel license until September 1, 1991 without the required waiting
period. Reports must  be submitted  to the MDNR if eels are offered
for sale.  The new  license will provide data  on eels used as bait
in the blue crab fishery.
                                17

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Regulatory and Conflict issues

     Conflict  issues in the  blue  crab fishery have  begun to be
resolved. An amendment to  COMAR 08.02.03., which  prohibits the
setting of buoyed crab pots in marked channel entrances of certain
access  and  navigational areas  within Maryland, will add  19 new
buoy-free  areas.  With  the  proposed  elimination  of  the  non-
commercial crabbing license (Action 1.3.1)  in Maryland, the use of
crab  pots  would  be  retained  for  commercial  harvesters  and
waterfront  property owners.  This  action  would  also facilitate
enforcement of harvesting regulations.

     Enforcement policies  and practices regarding  the  blue crab
fishery have been strengthened throughout the Bay by a commitment
to consistent  and  uniform  practices.  Enforcement effort has been
placed on the practice of culling small crabs from the commercial
and recreational catch. More stringent penalties have been enforced
for repeat violations of crabbing regulations.

Habitat Degradation

     Support of the  habitat and water quality commitments in the
1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement has continued. Although MDNR, PRFC,
and VMRC do not carry out the  specific commitments, each agency has
been  actively  involved  in  defining  water  quality  goals  and
reviewing the results of the  action programs. Specific strategies
for nutrient reduction, reduction and control of toxic substances,
and control  of conventional  pollutants can be  found  in the 1989
Annual Progress  Reports  for  each. In  addition  to  these areas of
habitat  and  water  quality  concern,  specific  items have  been
addressed for blue crabs.  Data collected from  the summer trawl
survey  in  Maryland  indicate that  the  areas  of  highest  crab
abundance/  well-suited for crab  sanctuaries,  are  also  the best
commercial crabbing areas.  At this time, it does not seem feasible
to prohibit  crabbing in  these areas. As environmental parameters
.are better defined, areas with moderate abundance may be targeted
for protection. It is recommended that those areas of highest crab
abundance be protected against environmental modifications  such as
channel dredging .

     Additional research on crab habitat preference  has shown that
vegetated habitats support more juvenile  crabs  by an  order of
magnitude  than adjacent unvegetated marsh  creeks. The  need to
protect and restore submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and support
tidal  and non-tidal wetlands strategies  remains  important.  The
development of the document,  "Habitat Requirements  for Chesapeake
Bay Living  Resources,"  is  in the process  of  being completed and
will include specific information on critical and sensitive areas
for blue crabs.
                                18

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Conclusion

     The 1989 Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Management Plan was adopted
with  a view to  prudently  manage  a  highly valuable  resource.
Increasing  fishing  pressure on  the  blue crab  stock,  incomplete
knowledge about  blue crab population dynamics  and environmental
factors that affect  larval stages, and socioeconomic issues present
a complex management  agenda. During  the first year,  actions were
begun to contain blue crab harvest by decreasing the waste of small
or poor quality  crabs.  Other methods  of controlling blue  crab
harvest are  being investigated.  The  blue crab data base has been
improved, especially for the recreational fishery, and should yield
some important and  valuable  information in  the near future.  With
an improved data base  for  both the commercial  and recreational
fisheries,   socioeconomic  issues  can   be   better  defined  and
incorporated into management decisions.

     Two general  areas  need  to  be emphasized during 1990-1991 in
order to improve the management  of the blue crab fishery. Briefly,
these are:

     1) Continue to  collect and analyze data  from the winter dredge
     and  summer trawl  surveys.  This research  will improve  the
     understanding   of   stock/recruitment   relationships   and
     contribute to developing a  forecasting model for the fishery.

     2) Improve the data base and methodologies needed to decrease
     waste  in the fishery. Waste arises from hairvesting small or
     poor  quality  crabs  and   operations that  cause  excessive
     mortality. The winter dredge fishery, consistent size limits
     :for peeler and soft crabs,  and shedding operations are among
     the issues to be addressed.
                                19

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              CHESAPEAKE  BAY OYSTER MANAGEMENT  PLAN

Background

     Governor  Schaefer's  Committee  to  Review State  Policy  for
Funding   Maryland's  Chesapeake   Fisheries   is  concluding   its
assessment of the State's role  in managing the oyster fishery.   The
committee's  final report  should  be  released towards  the end of
1990.    The  various  topics under review by the  Committee  are
discussed under the appropriate headings of this report.       ,;,

     The University of Maryland, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory
(CBL)^ in Solomons, is conducting  research to improve oyster  bar
sampling methodologies and to increase our understanding  of oyster
population dynamics.  This  information will improve management of
the  fishery and  has  implications for  shell and  seed   stocking
strategies in the micromanagement of  specific  oyster bars. Results
of  the  first  phase  of  research  are briefly  discussed  in  the
appropriate sections  of this report.

     In  December  1989,  the Virginia  Marine Resources Commission,
Fishery  Management Division (FMD) identified several management
options designed to reduce harvest and prevent excessive  reduction
of James River oyster broodstock.   Strong opposition by  industry
representatives  resulted  in  a Commission decision to  deny  the
public hearing process for consideration of  the staff  proposal.
The Commission, instead, approved the establishment of a  committee
comprised of industry members and FMD staff to further discuss  and
develop viable management options  for Virginia's oyster  industry.
This group, known as the Shellfish Subcommittee  (of VMRC's Fishery
Management Advisory Committee) , conducted several meetings in early
1990.   Agenda items  included  discussions  on the  1990  repletion
proposal, status of the James River oyster fishery, and  status of
disease  research  at  the  Virginia Institute  of Marine Science
(VIMS). A second FMD proposal to restrict James River harvest  for
the 1990-1991 season was presented  in August 1990. Final Commission
action is  expected following the  FMD's  review  of  October,  1990,
landings.
                                                i
Harvest Decline and Overharvesting             !

     The preliminary count for  Maryland's 1989-1990 oyster harvest
is 395,000 bushels, the third season  in a row  that the harvest has
been under  400,000 bushels.   The  Choptank and Tred  Avon Rivers
alone accounted for approximately  61 percent of the harvest.   The
Maryland harvest has stabilized at these  low numbers, in part, due
to the  subsidence of MSX, the seed and shell repletion program, and
the  continuing  delayed  entry program  for  commercial  fishing
licenses in Maryland.   Virginia's total market and seed production
for calendar year 1989 was 355,000  bushels, a 39 percent reduction
from the 1988 harvest and 66 percent below the rten  year average


                                25   .            ;

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 annual  harvest from 1979-1989.   Preliminary estimates  for 1990
 harvest levels through April are within 1 percent of 1989 levels.

      The daily harvest  for each gear type in Maryland was generally
 less than the limit allowed under current regulations, however, the
 Department shortened the  beginning  of  the  season by  two weeks in
 an attempt to decrease total effort and to maximize economic return
 from the available resource.  Watermen  will be consulted on season
 length and catch limits for the 1990-1991 oyster season.  Fishing
 effort in Virginia's James River  in October-November 1989 was 40
 percent below that for  the same period  in 1988.  Average catch per
 vessel in October 1989  was down over 50 percent from 1988.

      The VMRC,  as part  of  its  normal  seasonal  closure of  the
 State's public oyster grounds, approved the May 1, 1990 closure p
 all public oyster rocks on the Seaside  of the Eastern Shore and on
 the clean cull areas  of the State, with the exception of the James
 River.  The James River was  closed  on  June 1,  1990 by a separate
 order.  Such closures reduce effort and allow for spawning and spat
 set in areas  traditionally harvested.   In an attempt  to promote
 broodstock conservation in the James River, the VMRC  approved the
 closure of Deep  Water Shoals to  public harvest  in  1990.   This
 upriver productive  rock  has  escaped  MSX  and Perkinsus  (Dermo)
 because of its location in low salinity waters.

      The procedure for  opening and closing  specific harvest areas
 on a rotating basis is not yet fully developed,  however,  CBL has
 concluded the first phase of a study that will lead toward that and
 other management goals.   Among the important findings of CBL' is
 that patent tongs  are  more efficient  than an oyster  dredge  for
 sampling oyster bars.  The CBL has  also  developed a  preliminary,
 cost-effective, baywide sampling  scheme for oyster bars.  In  order
 to verify  some  assumptions  in the  preliminary sampling  scheme,
 intensive systematic  surveys were conducted in the Choptank River.
 Nine oyster  bars were  surveyed  and data from  British  Harbor,
.Chancellor Point,  and France  bars  were  analyzed.  Results indicate
 the importance of tightly defining  the acreage of an  oyster  bar
 when estimating oyster population  densities, and the need to refine
 on-bar sampling techniques.   In addition to  the bars  sampled  in
 1989,  intensive stock assessments have been completed on Stonerock,
 Man-0-War,  Simmons and Little  Cove  Point bars.   Information  on
 population distribution, oyster density, abundance, and size-class
 composition were  collected.   Using this information,  these oyster
 bars  can  be  described  according  to  average  oyster  density;
 estimated_total abundance; percentage of spat,  smalls  and markets;
 average size;  and estimated total number of markets.

    t The Maryland Delayed Entry  Program passed  during the  1988
 legislative session and established  in  1989 to control  the number
 of people^entering the  commercial fisheries,  requires  commercial
 fishing license applicants to wait a minimum of two years before
 receiving  their license.   With the two-year delay, the first new

                                26

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 .licensees will enter,the fishery during the 1992 season (Sept. 1,
 1991 -Aug. 31, 1992)J, As previously mentioned in the review of the
 Blue Crab Management  Plan, the number of tidal fish licenses (TFLs)
 has been increasing with a dramatic increase between 1988 and 1989
 in anticipation of the delayed entry deadline. The number of oyster
 harvesting licenses  (OYHs)  have fluctuated for the pass  several
 years. After one year of the Delayed Entry Program,  the number of
 TFLs appears to be holding steady but the positive effects of the
 Delayed Entry Program will not be fully realized for several years.
 Although  conclusive  data documenting the  effectiveness  of  the
 Delayed-Entry Program is not available  at  this  time,  the  program
 will be  effective at  controlling short-term  effort  that  could
 result from changes in fishery regulations.

      Proposed legislation authorizing the VMRC to limit or delay
 entry for fisheries  (House  Bill 286)  was introduced to the  1990
 Virginia General Assembly.   The bill  was tabled and  assigned to a
 legislative subcommittee for  further study.   No  action will  be
 taken until the 1991  legislative session.
                                                     1
 Recruitment

      The  1990  Maryland,  Virginia,   and  Potomac   River   oyster
 repletion programs were  conducted at  approximately the  same level
 as  last year.   Maryland  planted approximately 5.5 million bushels
 of  dredged (fossil)  shell  and 86,000 bushels  of  fresh shell  as
 cultch.   In order to improve the usefulness of cultch, the bagless
 dredging program was  upgraded.   Previously, bagless dredging  was
 used only for fouled or  silted oyster bars.   Beginning in  1988,
 bagless dredging was  used in seed areas  to  increase  spat set and,
 thereby,  increase recruitment.   During 1990, three State seed areas
 were cleaned  for the  upcoming  oyster set arid 49 oyster beds were
 improved by bagless dredging.    Approximately  160,000  bushels  of
 surf clam shells,  a viable alternative cultch,  were also planted
 and  represents a  considerable  increase from previous  years.  In
 addition, approximately 340,000 bushels of seed oysters were moved.

     Virginia  planted approximately 1.2 million bushels of shell
 and  transplanted 175,000 bushels of seed.  The repletion program
 began shifting its emphasis  to  seed transplants in 1987 to reduce
 the  time  it  takes  to   produce  market-size  oysters,  thereby,
 decreasing exposure to disease  and environmental pressures.  Areas
 receiving  seed included the Coan River, Currioman  Bay,  and the
 Rappahannock River.   No  repletion activities were proposed below
 the Piankatank River because  of  low spat strikes  in the James River
 and Mobjack Bay  over  the past  few years.  Plantings  in the Great
Wicomico   and   Piankatank   Rivers  will   foster   future   seed
transplanting  activities.

     Approximately 50  acres  of old shell beds  were  proposed for
cleaning by bagless dredging on Virginia's Eastern Shore Seaside.
The Seaside, which typically  receives  moderate to heavy spat sets,
                                27

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will  continue  to be  planted with  reef  shells from  VMRC's 1988
stockpile in Harborton, VA. . In addition,  some Eastern Shore buyers
indicated the availability of fresh shells for the Seaside Program.

     The  1989  Maryland  oyster spat  set was  poor.   Most  areas
received no  set  and a few scattered areas had a  very light set.
The lower Eastern Shore  was  the most productive,  with 30-50 spat
per bushel.  Even the seed areas,  which  are heavily planted with
cultch in historically good spat setting areas, had a poor set in
1989.   However,  if these oysters  survive,  together with  small
oysters from the past two years, and there is similar recruitment
this  season,  there  is  the potential  for increased  harvests  in
future years.

     Maryland's  hatcheries  at  Deal Island  and Piney  Point  are
actively engaged in oyster production and research.   Experiments
are being conducted with Delaware and Chesapeake oyster stocks and
with the pacific  oyster,  Crassostrea gigas, under quarantine. .More
details are provided  under the Disease Mortality  section of this
report.  Maryland DNR and the University of Maryland have begun a
cooperative project to assess a new technique for remote setting.
The Piney Point aquaculture facility will  produce approximately 70-
80 million eyed  larvae  for the project.  Researchers will "plant"
these larvae from a sled pulled behind a  vessel onto 6 or 7 plots,
each 1/2 acre in  size. The plots will be monitored before, during,
and"after planting, and will be compared to hatchery-set spat.  If
successful, this technique  could be used  to revitalize existing
oyster bars, establish new bars, and make the large-scale culture
of  oysters  with   specific   characteristics,   such  as  disease
resistance or fast growth, feasible.  Cooperative research between
MDNR,  Baltimore  Gas  &  Electric,  Langenfelder Company,  and  SCM
Chemicals, Inc. is also  underway for the  development of artificial
cultch composed of gypsum and fly ash.

     The Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) will continue
hatchery operations  to  produce eyed larvae  and seed  oysters  for
research and rehabilitation projects (also  see  Disease Mortality).
The VIMS Oyster Outreach Program currently provides hatchery-reared
cultchless seed  oysters  to  industry  for off-bottom  rack culture
(grow out).  This cooperative venture is designed to evaluate the
feasibility  of rearing  the  oysters to market  size before  heavy
mortality from MSX and Perkinsis (Dermo)  is realized.

     In February, 1990,  VMRC  approved a  project for an applicant
to install a series of floating trays, 3 feet long by 2 feet wide
and 6 inches deep,  for raising oysters to market size.  A total of
400 trays is anticipated, requiring encroachment over approximately
one acre of State-owned subaqueous bottom.  The  project is situated
in the upper reaches of Butcher Creek,  a  tidal tributary to  the
Chesapeake Bay, in Accomack County.   Questions concerning riparian
property owner rights and the potential for impacts were addressed
at length.   This project represents Virginia's first aquaculture

                                28

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permit for oysters authorizing the use of the water column in tidal
waters.

Disease Mortality

     Maryland  and Virginia  are continuing  their  annual  oyster
disease surveys in order to develop strategies for optimal seed and
shell  planting.    Plantings  have  been focused  in  areas  of  low
salinity to take advantage of the 12 ppt minimum salinity tolerance
of MSX.

     The incidence of MSX decreased in Maryland waters during 1989;
much of this can be attributed to high rainfall, resulting in low
salinities.   However,  Perkins is  (Dermo)  does  riot  appear  to  be
limited by salinity, and incidences of this disease were found in
areas previously thought to be uninfected.

     Maryland is currently planting spat produced from Delaware Bay
disease-resistant  oysters on Maryland oyster bars to  gauge their
effectiveness here.  Native stocks are also being bred and tested
for their  resistance to  MSX and Perkinsis  (Dermo).   To date,  it
appears that  either the Maryland  or  Delaware Bay  stocks  may  be
superior in any  given  area of the  Chesapeake.   In  addition,  the
Pacific oyster  (Crassostrea gigas)  is being experimented with,
under quarantine, for disease resistance.  Initial results suggest
that they  are  resistant to MSX,  but are susceptible to Perkinsis
(Dermo), at least  at sublethal levels.

     The Virginia Institute of Marine  Science is actively pursuing
funds to continue its oyster disease research program.  The overall
goal of the research is to develop or identify strains of oysters
that are less  susceptible  to Chesapeake  Bay oyster diseases and
that can be used in programs to rejuvenate  the oyster industry.
Specific objectives  are:   1) develop, through selective breeding
or genetic manipulation, a strain of  C.  virginica  that survives
well enough in disease  endemic areas of the Chesapeake to make its
use  economically   feasible,  and;     2)   determine  growth  and
susceptibility to MSX and Perkinsus (Dermo) of diploid and triploid
C. qigas and of C. virginica  X C. gigas hybrids,  if hybrids can be
produced.   The VMRC held  a  public hearing  in  May 19,90,  on the
subject  of   introducing   C.   gigas   into   natural  waters  for
experimentation, and ruled that an environmental impact statement
would have to be conducted before such action could be taken.

     A series of workshops concentrating on rehabilitation of the
Chesapeake and  Delaware  Bay  oyster industry  was  held during the
past year.   Workshop  participants included  both  scientists and
managers, and topics ranged from oyster genetics  ctnd  disease to the
introduction of  exotic oyster  species.   The workshops produced
recommendations  for research  and  a  consensus that  additional
efforts  should be made  to  rebuild  populations  of  the  eastern


                                29

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oyster,  C.  virginica,  before  attempting major  rehabilitation
efforts with the Pacific oyster  or other non-native species.

Leased Ground Production

     Maryland made  seed oysters available to private planters in
May  1990r  from  one  of two  seed beds established in 1989 for this
purpose.   It was estimated that  the area in St. Jerome Creek, St.
Mary's County, would yield approximately 50,000 bushels of seed at
an average count of 113 spat per bushel.   The  seed area was found
to be disease-free during the winter of 1989-1990, however, because
Perkinsis  (Dermo) was found in  adjacent  sites, MDNR recommended
that the  seed  not  be  replanted on  oyster  leases in  areas not
impacted by oyster  diseases.  The 1989 spat set was too low on the
private  seed bed in  Calvert  County to make  seed  available this
year.   Additional  cultch plantings and a  second year of set may
improve conditions  for  1991.

     The Maryland  State Legislature passed HB 214  in 1990 which
raises  the fee for leased bottom applications.   A leased ground
applicant  must  now  pay DNR a non-refundable fee of $300 to cover
the  costs  of  recording,  surveying,  and 'advertising  potential
tracts.  In  addition, the  time period during which a leaseholder
must  "utilize" his/her  lease  by  planting  cultch,  planting
shellfish,  or  harvesting  shellfish  was   reduced.   Previously,  a
leaseholder need only use/improve the  leased ground once during a
five-year  period.  Now a leaseholder  must  utilize  his/her leased
ground at  least once  during a  three-year period.

     Virginia proof-of-use measures to promote private production
and  cultivation were  implemented July 1,   1990.  Section 28.1-109
of the Code of Virginia specifies that, unless there is good cause,
VMRC may not renew or  extend oyster ground  leases if there has been
neither  significant   production  of  shellfish  nor  reasonable
plantings  of shellfish  or cultch during the 10-year period of the
lease prior to,its  renewal.  The first leases  to be evaluated for
'usage  prior  to renewal were reviewed  by  the Commission in June,
1990,  resulting in  over  half  of  the  26 lease  renewals  under
consideration to be denied.

     One of the subjects being studied by  the  Committee to Review
State Policy for Funding Maryland's Chesapeake Fisheries is whether
private oyster  culture can play a more important role  in the state
production of oysters.  The committee is looking at production
potential,  whether  the  state  should  help develop  the industry,
appropriate areas and conditions for private culture,  cost and tax
issues,  enforcement,  and related matters.  Once the committee's
recommendations are presented to Governor Schaefer, the Department
will take  actions as  needed.

     The VMRC staff are working within current legal  requirements
to  minimize impediments in  the existing  permitting  process for

                                30

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applicants  seeking new  culture  methods.   The first  permit was
issued in February, 1990 (see the discussion of tray culture under
Recruitment).  The Virginia Institute of Marine Science  is shifting
the emphasis of its outreach prpgram and internal research program
to new culture techniques for the Virginia oyster fishery.

Habitat Issues and Shellfish Sanitation        j

     The signatories  to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement continue to
press forward with research, monitoring, and management  for habitat
and water  quality improvement.   Reports for the Baywide Nutrient
Strategy, Living Resources Monitoring Plan, State of the Chesapeake
Bay,  Habitat  Requirements,  Wetlands  Policy,  Submerged  Aquatic
Vegetation  (SAV)  Policy,  and other plans should be consulted for
details.

     The  VMRC,  in  cooperation with VIMS  and the  Department of
Health, conducted a feasibility study in 1987 which investigated
the potential for containerized relaying (depuration) of condemned
oysters. This  technique was  found to be acceptable for depurating
both the American oyster and the hard clam (Mercenaria mercenaria) .
The VMRC  instituted a  containerized clam  relay program in  March
1987 and has  recently (July  1990) approved  the same procedure for
oysters. The Food and Drug Administration found this relay practice
to be  beneficial to both "industry and the  Commonwealth; industry
could  maximize  yield due  to reduced  transplant  mortality, and
Virginia  would benefit from an improved system of controls  which
would  reduce the likelihood of contaminated  shell stock reaching
the consumer.

     In   Maryland,   the  Department of Natural   Resources,  the
Department of the Environment,  and the Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene continue to share responsibility for the sanitary
control  of  the  shellfish  industry.   The  VMRC and  the Virginia
Department of Health  (Division  of Shellfish Sanitation)  jointly
regulate  the sanitary control of Virginia's shellfish  industry.

Market Production                             I

      Successful implementation of the various strategies listed  in
the management plan should help restore natural oyster stocks and
 increase   private  production,  thus  providing  a  more  reliable
quantity  and quality  oyster  product to the market.    As noted  in
earlier  sections of this report, production remains  at low levels
but progress is being made in several  important areas.

                                               i
                                               i
      In  the meantime,  efforts are  being made to  improve  consumer
 interest  in  the Chesapeake oyster.   The Maryland Department  of
Agriculture, Seafood Marketing Division, has  created a consumer's
 guide and a fact sheet that include information on the quality  of
 Chesapeake oysters.   The department also  regularly  publishes the

                                 31             i

-------
Maryland Seafood Buyer's Bulletin.  Both DNR and the Department of
Agriculture   have   also  given  numerous  media  interviews  and
distributed press releases on  oyster quality issues.

     The Virginia  Marine Products  Board (VMPB) continues active
promotion of the Chesapeake Bay oyster.  Three pamphlets, targeting
consumers, have been produced to encourage consumption of oysters.
Pact  sheets  were  distributed to  promote  oyster purchases  by
wholesale distributors.  Another brochure was designed to advertise
oysters on an international level.  In  addition, the VMPB featured
Virginia oysters at four major trade shows. Trade leads from 200
buyers  interested  in purchasing  Virginia  oysters were generated
from these shows.  In response to negative publicity about oysters,
the VMPB began a quality assurance campaign, producing a video tape
on   safe   inspection   of   Virginia   shellfish,   promotional
advertisements, and a direct mail program.

Repletion Program

     A major topic  under consideration by the Committee to Review
State Policy  for Funding Maryland's Chesapeake Fisheries  is the
oyster repletion program.  This subject area includes  how and at
what level the program should be conducted, the extent to which the
state and participants in the fishery should share repletion costs,
severance taxes on the sale of oysters, and other related matters.
The state  will not  take specific action on any of  these issues
until the committee's report is completed.

     The Chesapeake Biological  Laboratory conducted studies in 1989
to help determine  optimal  time and location for shell  plantings.
Preliminary data from field experiments indicate that shells placed
in polyethylene cages were more effective in attracting spat than
were mesh bags 1 meter off the bottom  or  shells on  oyster bars.
At least for 1989,  when  salinities were  unusually low due to high
levels of  rainfall, spat settlement was most  pronounced  in July
and August.  Data from these and  other experiments is still being
analyzed and will be available this year.  In addition, a project
to  experimentally  . reconstruct  oyster bars   into   productive
configurations will begin.

     In 1989,  VIMS reported on  three studies comparing alternative
substrates  for oyster  cultch  -  oyster shell,  tire chips,  and
expanded  shale.    The  studies  entailed   laboratory  and  field
evaluations of the  three substrates for oyster settlement and an
assessment of  mobility and hydraulic roughness, of the substrate
materials.     The   laboratory  evaluation  of  oyster  settlement
indicated that oyster shell was significantly superior to the other
two  substrates,  and  in  two   of  three tests,  there  were  no
statistically significant differences between  the tire chips and
expanded shale.  The field studies of oyster settlement indicated
that  oyster  shell   was  the  preferred  substrate based  on  the
proportion of spat  present.  Laboratory and field analyses found

                                32

-------
that tire chips were more  readily dispersed or transported along
the bottom than  the other substrates.   Expanded shale fragments
were somewhat more  mobile  than oyster shell.   The  VMRC and VIMS
agreed that  tire  chips did not serve  as suitable substrate,  but
that expanded shale  may warrant further study if it can be obtained
in cost-effective quantities.

     An oyster industry restoration program is in the development
stages  and   includes   Maryland  and  Virginia  harvesters  and
processors,   officials  from  other  states,   and   the  federal
government.  Currently,  MDNR and  the University  of  Maryland  Sea
Grant Program are planning  to hold a national conference  in August,
1991. Oyster scientists from the United States  and other countries
and oyster industry people will be invited to gather information
and discuss  a program  for rebuilding the  Chesapeake  Bay oyster
stocks and industry. One of the major issues  will  be whether to
utilize non-native  species.

Conclusion

     Progress has been made  on methodologies  for  improving  the
assessment of oyster stocks and on understanding oyster ecology and
diseases.  Important policies regarding oyster  management are also
being developed.  However,  refinement of  techniques and  additional
information  is  needed  before some management  actions  can be put
into place.  With continued progress,  management agencies will, in
the next  few years, be able to manage oyster bars at the "micro"
level.   This should lead  to increased  and stable  production of
quality oysters.

     Concurrently,  Chesapeake  fishery  managers are   discussing
reasonable target goals for recovery  of  the oyster fishery.  Both
biological  and economic  concerns are  being  addressed in these
discussions.  Target goals  will provide managers with direction for
their actions and will provide a  yardstick with which  to measure
their success.  Target goals should be fully developed  by the end
of 1990.

     Two  general  areas need to be focused on during 1990-1991 in
order  to  rebuild  oyster  stocks  and  improve  mcinagement  of  the
fishery.   Briefly,  these are:

     1.  Identify new  areas  of fossil  oyster shell  that  can be
     dredged and  planted for cultch, and increase the availability
     of alternative sources  of  cultch.
                                                 i

     2. Continue to conduct research on growth,  disease resistance,
     and  production   capabilities  of  the  eastern  oyster,  and
     continue developing  an   official   baywide policy  on  the
     introduction of non-indigenous  species of oysters.


                                33

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