What is Man O War Shoal?
Located off of the shores of Southeast Baltimore County, Man O War Shoal is the last large relic oyster reef in the Upper Chesapeake Bay.
Man O War has always been a favorite fishing location for many recreational and charter fishermen, and the area surrounding it is vitally important for the commercial crabbing fleet in the Upper Bay.
Oyster harvest also occurs on the shoal, specifically after local county watermen invest in oyster plantings also referred to as planting spat on shell; juvenile oysters attached to fresh shell in hatchery operations.
The vertical relief of the shoal helps to break up tidal flows oxygenating the water and is vital habitat for fish, crabs, oysters, mussels, barnacles and more.
What is shell dredging and why is it done?
From 1960 until 2006 DNR dredged nearly 200 million bushels of buried oyster shell from the upper bay and barged them into the southern Bay where salinity is higher and supports better reproduction and growth of oysters.
This effort was known as the “Repletion Program”, and was a long standing subsidy for the wild oyster fishery.
When concentrated shell deposits were exhausted and public opposition to dredging developed the program stopped. After the program ended the upper bay bottom had been forever altered and the public had nothing to show for the use of this finite natural resource.
What is DNR's Plan?
What will dredging do to Man O War Shoal?
DNR's plan is to remove up to 5 million bushels of shell from the middle portion of the shoal over a 5 year period, and up to 30 million bushels long term.
The plan calls for 5 cuts on the south side and 5 cuts on the north side. Proponents for dredging claim that this action will not impact the structure of the shoal, but science tells us differently.
When a dredge cuts into the inner core of a reef or shoal, it allows oxygen to reach an area that has been sealed off for centuries. This quickly starts the process of decomposition of the core of the shoal.
With constant tidal flow across the shoal, the core may be eroded and forever change the landscape of the area.
Why is Man O War Shoal at Risk?
Because of a 2009 legislative mandate to identify locations to restart the dredging of buried shell, Man O War shoal is now the direct focus of an ongoing effort to restart this destructive action.
Man O War Shoal contains approximately 100 Million bushels of buried oyster shell in it's core. This buried shell is sought for building up degraded oyster bars to act as a substrate for oyster larvae to naturally attach to it. It is not used for spat on shell planting operations.
When will dredging begin?
The Maryland Board of Public Works, made up of the Governor, Comptroller, and Treasurer, can vote to approve the permit and begin dredging at any future meeting of the Board.
If approved dredging will take place in year 2 and 5 of a five year period once started.
What can I do
to help protect Man O War Shoal?
Over the years, thousands of citizens have weighed in to DNR in opposition of this action. This opposition has seemingly fallen on deaf ears.
Thankfully, leaders in the Maryland General Assembly have introduced House Bill 1, House Bill 40 and Senate Bill 145, all of which PROHIBIT the dredging of Man O War Shoal.
Please watch and share the video below, and follow the TAKE ACTION link below to weigh in on this all important action.
Ready to make a difference?
Contact your legislators and ask them to support SB0437 which prohibits Maryland DNR from dredging buried oyster shell from Man O War Shoal
The debate on Man O War shoal goes back into the late 1980's when local Baltimore County Watermen, who felt the brunt of the impact of the repletion program started voicing concerns. Since CCA Maryland's founding in 1995 , we have opposed the dredging of Man O War no matter what the conditions or details. The stories, opinions, and complexity of this issue is overwhelming for most to comprehend, but to CCA it is simple. Do not forever alter one habitat to attempt to improve another, especially when history shows that all that exists from previous buried shell dredging are continued negative impacts on crabbers and anglers in the Upper Bay.