2008
Volume 7, Number 1
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A Chesapeake Seafood Sampler
Of Commecially Harvested Species
Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)
striped bass
Wild — After a harvest moratorium brought striped bass back from steep decline, the fishery now enjoys a reputation as a model of successful recovery. Possible certification by the Marine Stewardship Council could put eco-labels on Maryland striped bass and give the fishery a boost in the marketplace.

Farmed — The culture of striped bass has expanded in the past two decades, but not in the Chesapeake region. This is primarily due to the high cost of land, lack of high volume groundwater, and competition with the wild fishery.

Oysters (Crassostrea virginica)
Wild — Overharvesting and diseases like MSX and Dermo have left the wild oyster fishery at a fraction of historic levels. This year should bring findings from a long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement on the potential introduction of
Crassostrea ariakensis, a non-native oyster considered more resistant to disease than the failing native oyster, Crassostrea virginica.
Farmed — Practiced in the Bay for over a hundred years, oyster culture declined at
the end of the 20th century due to the proliferation of disease. Growth of aquaculture
operations such as Bevins and Cowart oyster companies in Virginia, and Circle-C Oyster Ranchers, Great Eastern Chincoteague, and Marinetics in Maryland, indicate increased interest in cultured oysters. A preliminary report recently released by the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission stated that the greatest opportunity for expanding oyster production for economic benefit will be through aquaculture. But expanding oyster culture in Maryland will likely require changes in some longstanding laws.
Blue Crabs (Callinectes sapidus)
Wild — Blue crabs support one of the Bay's largest and most valuable fisheries, but low stock sizes and reports of harvests at or near record lows in both Maryland and Virginia have sparked concerns over the health of the fishery.

Farmed — Although crab culture has been part of groundbreaking research on blue crab life cycle and hatchery technology, there are as yet no commercial crab culture businesses in the
Chesapeake. One form of aquaculture, the long-standing practice of shedding crabs for soft-shells, provides a robust industry with national and international sales.
Hard Clams (Mercenaria mercenaria)
hard clam

Wild — Hard clams support a small commercial fishery in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay, and an even smaller fishery in Maryland's coastal bays. The forthcoming ban on hydraulic harvest gear beginning in October 2008 may bring the end of Maryland's wild hard clam fishery.

Farmed — Hard clam mariculture (aquaculture in saline water) is a multi-million dollar industry in Virginia. Work is underway to ramp up successful efforts in Maryland's coastal bays, but the current small industry has met opposition from environmental groups and riparian property owners.

Soft Clams (Mya arenaria)
soft clam

Wild — An important commercial fishery in the Chesapeake since the 1950s, most soft shell clams are exported to New England states where clam populations have declined. Consistently low landings in recent years suggest that Bay soft clams have declined as well.

Farmed — There is no soft clam mariculture industry in the Chesapeake, and development of one is unlikely due to widespread anoxia, the lack of hatchery production, disease, and heavy predation by cownosed rays.

Shrimp (Penaeus vannamei)
white shrimp

Wild — Several species of shrimp occur as far north as the Mid-Atlantic, but there is no significant harvest for wild shrimp in the Chesapeake region. Major shrimp fishing grounds stretch from the Carolinas south to the Gulf of Mexico.

Farmed — Though not a traditional Chesapeake seafood, the development of high-tech shrimp aquaculture facilities on Maryland's Eastern Shore and in western Virginia may signal the start of a successful industry in the area.


Photograph credits: striped bass, Tim Van Vliet; oyster, Sandy Rodgers; blue crab, Skip Brown; hard clam and shrimp, NOAA Estuarine Reserve; and soft clam, Kirsten Poulsen.



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