[photo, Oyster aquaculture exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland] Aquaculture, or farming the water, produces a variety of finfish and shellfish: hybrid striped bass, prawns, tilapia, catfish, yellow perch, eels, crawfish, trout, oysters, and soft crabs. For laboratory research, aquaculture supplies ornamental aquatic plants and fish, game fish, bait, and some specimens. Aquaculturally produced fish are exempt from laws and regulations that pertain to wild harvested species, including endangered species provisions.

Oyster aquaculture exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.

The 2010 estimated value of Maryland seafood industry exceeded $600 million, and employed more than 7,000 workers.

Maryland's first aquaculture legislation passed in 1988. Since then, most aquafarmed products have been grown in ponds. A new intensive aquaculture, however, now uses recirculating tanks, making farm-raised fish available year-round.

[photo, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, Maryland] Formerly supported by the Department of Agriculture, aquaculture, since July 2011, has been assisted and promoted by the Aquaculture Division in the Department of Natural Resources, as well as the Aquaculture Coordinating Council.

The Aquaculture Division grants shellfish aquaculture leases in Maryland, which allow shellfish, mostly oysters and some clams, to be grown and harvested. The Division also issues permits, commercial and private, to produce various species of finfish, plants, and invertebrates. As of June 2016, some 340 leases and 45 permits have been issued by the Division for aquaculture.

Department of Natural Resources, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, Maryland, March 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.

The Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, which began in 2008, works with waterfront property owners interested in "fostering" young oysters by hanging them in cages off of their piers. After about nine months, the oysters are collected and planted in sanctuaries in 30 local rivers and creeks. In September 2015, some 7,500 oysters cages were prepared for summer planting in 2016, when over 2 million oysters will be placed in sanctuaries.

Throughout Maryland, 12 "fee-fishing lakes" are stocked with fish species, including catfish, largemouth bass, and trout. These lakes are licensed operations found on private property. Issued by the Fisheries Service, a permit allows for the catching and keeping of fish without a Fisheries Service fishing license.

More than 200 schools, nature centers, government agencies, and private organizations raise fish, shellfish, or aquatic plants for educational or restoration purposes. In cooperation with park and fishery managers, species produced include American shad, American eel, hybrid bluegill, rainbow trout, striped bass, yellow perch, and oysters.

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