[Chesapeake Quarterly masthead]
2004
Volume 3, Number 3
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DOWN ON THE OYSTER REEFS
TRANSCRIPT

A skipjack under sail. Watermen pull up a dredge full of oysters and dump them on deck.

KEN PAYNTER
Since the mid 1800s, thousands of commercial fishermen in Maryland and Virginia have hauled hundreds of millions of bushels of oysters out of Chesapeake Bay.

From a long shot of a skipjack, tilt down to the water, and . . .

DISSOLVE TO:

. . . underwater shots of an oyster bar, thick with growing oysters.

KEN PAYNTER
They were fishing on oyster bars that probably once looked like this -- dense clumps of large oysters crammed together over time into vast underwater reefs.
KEN PAYNTER
(continuing)
The historic oyster reefs of the Chesapeake, like the coral reefs of the Caribbean, were huge living underwater structures.

A research boat heads out on the Bay. In the cabin driving the boat is Ken Paynter, a research biologist at the University of Maryland College Park and the Center for Environmental Science.

KEN PAYNTER
(continuing)
After a century and a half of heavy harvesting and after four decades of oyster disease, what has happened to these great reefs.

Scuba divers putting on their gear.

KEN PAYNTER
(continuing)
We wanted to find out. We wanted to show other people what the bottom of the bay looked like now.

Two scuba divers jump into the Bay.

KEN PAYNTER
(continuing)
Now the only people who see it are scuba divers, and they only get to see it on fairly calm days.

From the side of his research boat, Crassostrea, Ken Paynter leans over and hands a camera to a scuba diver.

KEN PAYNTER
(continuing)
They are dead oysters. Oysters that have died and they are stuck together, but there is no living tissue inside.

An underwater view of barren bottom: sand and mud and a few scattered shells half buried in the sediment.

KEN PAYNTER
(continuing)
This is what most of Maryland's historic oyster bars look like now. A few worms .., some scattered shells. Compared to the rich community that once prospered here, little is left.

On-screen interview with Ken Paynter, research biologist.

KEN PAYNTER
(continuing)
Today the oyster population is about 2% of what it was 100 years ago. The great reefs have been broken down and scattered by heavy fishing. Thousands of acres of have been buried by sediments. And then diseases then killed many of the remaining oysters.

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