Maryland Oyster Harvest Hits 35-year High

By Timothy B. Wheeler.

Maryland waterman enjoyed the best wild oyster season last fall and winter that they’ve had in 35 years, according to preliminary state data, a possible sign the keystone Chesapeake Bay species finally may be recovering from the diseases that began ravaging them in the 1980s.

About 511,000 bushels of oysters were landed in the six-month season that ended March 31, according to a still-incomplete tally from the state Department of Natural Resources. That’s the best harvest since 1986–87, near the beginning of an outbreak of MSX and Dermo that for years afterward killed off most oysters before they could grow to marketable size.

“You couldn’t ask for a better season,” said Jeff Harrison, a Talbot County waterman. He and many others were generally able to catch their limits, often well before each day was over. The bounty continued throughout the season, he said, and the price they got paid for their harvest remained strong, too.

Chris Judy, DNR’s shellfish director, called the wild harvest last season “a notable increase” over the previous year’s, which produced 333,000 bushels. Judy attributed the jump to a few successive years of good natural reproduction, including the third highest count in 2020…