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.
According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, aquaculture's market value in Maryland was $18.2 million.
Culling through farm-raised oysters harvested from a shellfish lease, Nanticoke River, Wicomico County, Maryland, May 2018. Photo by Nat Warning, courtesy of Department of Natural Resources.
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.
Formerly supported by the Department of Agriculture, aquaculture, since July 2011, has been assisted and promoted by the Aquaculture and Industry Enhancement Division in the Department of Natural Resources, as well as the Aquaculture Coordinating Council.
Department of Natural Resources, Tawes State Office Building, 580 Taylor Ave., Annapolis, Maryland, March 2001. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
The Aquaculture and Industry Enhancement Division grants shellfish aquaculture leases in Maryland, which authorize leaseholders to plant, grow and harvest shellfish, mostly oysters, from the leased areas. The Division also issues permits, commercial and private, to produce various species of finfish, plants, and invertebrates. In calendar year 2020, the Division issued 16 new Commercial Shellfish Aquaculture Leases, permitted 509 distinct individuals to work on Shellfish leases, issued 34 Shellfish Import Permits, 5 Shellfish Nursery Permits, and 1 Non-Shellfish Aquaculture Permits. In 2020, the Shellfish Aquaculture Lease oyster sales had an estimated dockside value of $3,542,783.
Oyster aquaculture exhibit, Maryland State Fair, Timonium, Maryland, September 2015. Photo by Sarah A. Hanks.
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 for about nine months. Cultivating millions of oysters, more than 1,500 property owners participate in the Program. Each summer, the oysters are collected and planted in sanctuaries in 30 local rivers and creeks.
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 Fishing and Boating Services, 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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