At the turn of the century, ranchers fought against farmers. The farmers won the Midwest and the ranchers won the West. Today, Chesapeake Bay watermen are pitted against oyster farmers over the growing abundance and popularity of Maryland and Virginia oysters.

Chesapeake Bay oyster farm

A Chesapeake Bay oyster farm (photo courtesy Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

Oyster levels are a fraction of what they once were, but due to careful state management, the number of oysters have made a significant comeback just over the past couple years. Demand for oysters is peaking too.

And to keep the trend going, Maryland has leased out significant chunks of the Chesapeake Bay to farmers who are cultivating oysters in cages on both the bottom of the Bay and on top of the water, which is cutting into the areas once raked by watermen searching for “wild” oysters.

The New York Times has a story about the tension between the two sides, “A New Bounty of Oysters in Maryland, but There is a Snag,” by It’s not a war yet, but the arguments haven’t changed much since the original land fights out West.


Here’s a video of the oyster farming: