Oyster Dredging in the Chesapeake Bay
Oyster dredging in the Chesapeake has always been a controversial issue. This method of oystering, more efficient than hand tonging and patent tonging, has been portrayed as destructive to oyster habitat. Watermen, who work these bars daily and rely on them to make a living, see things differently. Dredging turns the bottom over and cleans the oyster shell. Oyster larvae, the first stage of an oyster, must have clean shell to attach to and survive. With the large amounts of sediment running into our waters, dredging is an effective method to cleaning shell. While harvesting market sized oysters, the shell is dragged through the water, washed off, and returned to the top of the oyster bar. The Fall Oyster Survey, published each year by the Department of Natural Resources, shows a correlation between oyster dredge areas and high numbers of spatfall, baby oysters.