Date of Conferral
Date of Award
This study examines the concept of property rights in relation to fisheries resource management in the Maryland oyster fishery. An analysis of the past and present state of this fishery on the Chesapeake Bay focused on the administrative, biological, social, economic, and political influences in fisheries management and their potential consequences. This single fishery once provided a quarter of America's oysters but, if the oyster population decline continues, it may soon become a memory. Though Maryland has a dual property rights structure, private and public, the public fishery predominates. The reasons why privatization has not been a successfully implemented strategy, and whether the Maryland fishery embodies a unique situation better served by other management strategies, were addressed, and community-based alternatives from other types of fisheries were evaluated for their efficacy and applicability to Maryland. Historical and current information on Chesapeake oyster populations, events contributing to population fluctuations, and changes in fisheries management strategies were examined for any causal trends and compared and contrasted with other fisheries. The study found that culture and job satisfaction prevents privatization from becoming an accepted property rights management strategy in Maryland. This study also illustrates how cooperative fisheries management strategies can address nonmonetary benefits, traditional values, and coastal community structures, while achieving a sustainable harvest, preserving a traditional way of life, and restoring habitat and the oyster's role in the Bay's ecology. Any changes in the future will likely be directed toward changing the rules of management and harvest for the public grounds. If oyster production is to be increased in the Chesapeake Bay, the cooperation, consent, and responsibility of the watermen are needed for any policy to be successfully implemented. The future of fisheries management will not and cannot be confined to fisheries biology and population counts. It will need to encompass a broad arena of disciplines working together toward a common goal.