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Oysters To Get Sanctuaries

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A diver pulls up chunks of oyster reef.
Sabri Ben-Achour
A diver pulls up chunks of oyster reef.

By Sabri Ben-Achour

The State of Maryland is asking for input from the public on its plans to set aside 25 percent of the Chesapeake Bay as Oyster Sanctuary. Watermen and environmentalists are at odds over the plan.

Out on the Severn river near Annapolis, Chesapeake Bay Foundation scientist Stephanie Westbay has just pulled up a chunk of thriving oyster reef the size of her head, it's dripping with crabs and aquatic worms.

"You can see that a lot of other life has started to colonize these reefs. Not only do these oysters filter the water in the Chesapeake Bay, they also provide phenomenal habitat for a lot of other species," says Westbay.

She says this is proof that sanctuaries work, and that Maryland needs more of them. Larry Simms is president of the Maryland Waterman's Association. He says the state is severely underestimating the impact on watermen, and worries that Maryland is going to declare off limits the few remaining areas of the bay where oysters thrive.

"That's all this is is an experiment, a grandiose experiment at our cost," says Simms.

But many scientists insist there's nothing experimental about sanctuaries, and that oysters won't recover without them.

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