Despite tremendous support for protecting oyster sanctuaries in the state of Maryland – with 88-percent of Marylanders in support of the idea and this bill in specific garnering a bipartisan 98 to 40 win in the house and a 32 to 14 win in the state senate – Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued a veto of the bill (HB298) last night. No mincing words here, Governor, with this move you have let us in the Chesapeake Bay angling community down in a big way.

oyster restoration reef balls built for chesapeake bay
Volunteers and kids build reef balls intended for oyster restoration - apparently, the only way to be 100-percent sure an oyster is protected in the Chesapeake Bay is to attach it to a large chunk of concrete. Sad.

As Speaker Busch tweeted last night, “The oyster population is at a critical tipping point – our Chesapeake Bay cannot wait.” He’s right. Those of us who care about the bay are not only disappointed in the Governor’s move, but are downright disgusted by the gall shown when he claimed last night that the bill was “…bad for the Chesapeake Bay.”

On what planet is protecting oyster sanctuaries bad for the Bay? Why do we call them “sanctuaries” in the first place, if the oysters living there aren’t protected from harvest and sale? To call the use of that term disingenuous would be kind, to say the least. The word sanctuary infers that the oyster populations in these locations – established, planted, and grown with the use of OUR tax dollars, thank you very much – are safe from harvest and sale in the first place. Yet they are not. And this is at a time when estimates place the oyster population at one- to two-percent of historic norms; when the stock assessment just completed shows a decline in Maryland oysters by one-half in the past 20 years.

We sincerely hope the General Assembly overrides this veto, ASAP. We also call (yet again) for Governor Hogan to reconsider his position on the protection of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, and bring some of the reasonableness he’s shown on other bipartisan issues to this one, as well. Remember Marylanders, fishermen, and anyone else who cares about the Bay, you can contact the Governor and drop him a note to let him know how you feel about these issues and ask him to cease choosing commercial interests over the public will when it comes to protecting oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.

Breaking News: The Baltimore Sun has reported that the House of Delegates has just voted to override the veto, on a 96 to 43 vote!!

For more information on the recent assault on so-called oyster sanctuaries, see Chesapeake Bay Oyster Restoration Blues.