By KRISTIAN JAIME Kjaime@Chespub.com
STEVENSVILLE — In a visit to bolster the oyster shell recycling program in Queen Anne’s County, on Thursday, Oct. 3, State Comptroller Peter Franchot officially gave a citation to Hemingway’s Restaurant for its restoration efforts.
The Shell Recycling Alliance, a program by the Oyster Recovery Partnership, annually collects 33,000 bushels of shells from nearly 350 restaurants and 70 public drop sites in the Mid-Atlantic region.
“We’ve dropped almost 50% from the number of adult oysters from 20 years ago,” Franchot said. “We can put back a large number of oysters if the watermen and scientists can put aside their historic distrust for one another. Programs like this are good for the environment, good for the Bay and good for the watermen. Also, this is good for the reputation of the state.”
Since the alliance’s launch, the Partnership has reclaimed 190,000 bushels of shell, which equates to 6,650 tons kept out of area landfills, about $300,000 saved by local businesses in waste collection fees, and enough substrate to support the planting of 950 million oysters in local waters.
Aside from replenishing oyster beds along the Eastern Shore, the creation of a healthy oyster population means cleaner water, as a single adult oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water per day.
“Restoration efforts can be supported by watermen who have an economic dependency on a healthy bay and aquaculture,” Franchot said. “So we can make Maryland the magnet for billions of oysters.”
Stephanie Dudding is the general manager for Hemingway’s Restaurant, one eatery among seven restaurants in Queen Anne’s County that participates in the program, which rewards businesses with the Oyster Shell Recycling Tax Credit.
An individual or corporation may claim a credit against the state income tax in an amount equal to $5 for each bushel of oyster shells recycled during the tax year. The credit may not exceed $1,500 per taxpayer.
Participants include Fisherman’s Inn, Grasonville VFW, Harris Crab House and Seafood Restaurant, The Narrows Restaurant, Hemingway’s Restaurant, Kentmorr Restaurant and Knoxie’s Table.
“We’re excited about this tax credit, and with the limit moving from $700 to $1,500, we’ve seen twice as many (businesses) claim it,” said Karis King, Partnership event manager. “This helps us reclaim more shell, and this tax credit is working with more places teaching their employees about the importance of conservation.”
Oyster Recovery Partnership restoration efforts, which started in 1998, are part of a comprehensive plan to create a healthier Chesapeake Bay with responsible fishing by watermen.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Bay waters are one of the few places left in the world where an industry exists based on harvesting oysters from the wild. During the past three decades, Maryland and Virginia have suffered more than $4 billion in cumulative annual losses because of the decline of industries related to oyster harvesting.
“This county and this state was really founded on the seafood industry next to farming,” said Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Jim Moran. “This is very important to our livelihood and who better to listen to about than the watermen and the businesses who know the situation on a daily basis.”
Moran lauded the businesses already taking part and added possibly reaching out to restaurants that have yet to take advantage of the Shell Recycling Alliance.