Annapolis, MD — Today Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law a new Aquaculture Shellfish Leasing bill (Senate Bill 271/House Bill 312) that revamps leasing laws to make it easier for watermen and others to grow shellfish in the Bay. The bill, developed out of recommendations from the Oyster Advisory Commission, is another one of Governor O’Malley’s Smart, Green and Growing initiatives from the 2009 Legislative Assembly.
“Expanding opportunities for shellfish aquaculture in Maryland waters is vital to the health and economic prosperity of the Chesapeake and coastal bays,” said Governor O’Malley. “These changes will not only help restore important aquatic populations – like our native oyster – but also create jobs for Maryland’s working families.”
The new law will create aquaculture enterprise zones, and streamline the permit process in the Bay. It will provide incentives to spur private investment in leasing operations, and encourage commercial fishery experts to transition into aquaculture.
“Restoring our oyster population is central to healing the Chesapeake Bay and creating a sustainable fishing industry,” said Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin. “Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership this is a major step for the health of the Bay and those who make a living on it.”
These changes will give commercial waterman, farmers and others the opportunity to farm shellfish, helping to revitalize Maryland’s oyster industry and increase oyster and clam populations in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays. This law will help bring Maryland in line with states such as Virginia where the hard clam aquaculture industry is a $50 million business supporting several hundred jobs in rural areas.
“Today’s bill signing signals the great potential for expanding aquafarming in a way that is smart, green and growing for our environment, our economy, and employment,” said Agriculture Secretary Earl F. Hance. “Aquaculture businesses and watermen look forward to the creation of the enterprise zones and opening of bottom leases so that they can get to work farming shellfish in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays and bringing Maryland’s outstanding seafood products to market.”
Click here for more information and complete text of the bill http://mlis.state.md.us/2009rs/billfile/SB0271.htm