Shuck responsibly – More Oysters, Lower Taxes

Once the Chesapeake’s most plentiful fishery, the oyster population has been shellacked by overharvesting, disease and degraded water quality conditions.

Capt. John Smith, the first English explorer to sail the Chesapeake Bay, experienced great difficulty navigating as he noted the oysters laid “thick as stones.”

Today, the opposite is true, and as the Shell Recycling Alliance suggests – it is our duty to shuck responsibly.

In 1980, the total dockside value of the Chesapeake oyster harvest was $29.3 million, in 2001 it was $4.3 million – more than an 85 percent decline. Maryland has a history steeped in boating, swimming and fishing with a responsibility to restore not only the environment, but the economy that depends upon it.

Right here on the Eastern Shore, residents can do their part to restore clean water and support our local businesses just by eating oysters! Well, more accurately by recycling the oyster shells.

During my recent trips to the Shore, I have visited Hemmingway’s Restaurant on Kent Island, the Tidewater Inn in Easton and Evolution Brewing Co. in Salisbury – three among many participants in the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s shell recycling program.

Many more delicious eateries from the Granary in Cecil County to Sky Bar in Ocean City partner in this critical recycling alliance. Visit oysterrecovery.org to see all the locations doing their part to bolster oyster restoration efforts.

The shells collected from these partners are sent to an environmental research lab and oyster hatchery the University of Maryland Horn Point Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge, where they are cured, power-washed and put to work as settling material for the billions of oyster larvae that are planted to replenish reefs in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Just one adult oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day. This is a vital component to ensuring a cleaner, safer Bay.

The Office of the Comptroller is committed to doing what we can to help restore the oyster population. Maryland’s Oyster Shell Recycling Tax Credit allows an individual or corporation to claim an income tax credit of $5 per bushel of recycled oyster shells, for a credit up to $1,500.

To claim the credit, you must receive certification from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. By simply collecting the shells and returning them to a designated site, you could help grow more oysters, pay lower taxes, and promote a better Bay.

To learn more about the Oyster Shell Recycling Tax Credit, visit marylandtaxes.gov.

Oyster season is now under way -– enjoy shucking responsibly while supporting our wonderful, locally owned restaurants!

Peter Franchot is the Comptroller of the state of Maryland.

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