Monday, June 9, 2014

Maryland Oyster Reef Planting Program Continues to Grow.

This is excerpted from the Maryland Star Democrat and an article by Josh Bollinger. You can see the original article here. 

This is a great example of community involvement with camps and other organizations raising oysters for eventual placement.  The article also talks about the growth of the program, illustrating the community support for creating a living sea-bottom. We will be mentioning a similar  program for Massachusetts in our next meeting with the Commonwealth's Division of Marine Fisheries.

Oyster reef plantings underway.


EASTON — It’s planting season again for the Marylanders Grow Oysters program.“The program is helping oysters and also helping communities around the Bay,” said Chris Judy, manager of the Marylanders Grow Oyster Program.
Started in 2008 by DNR in the Tred Avon River, the program relies on volunteers to grow oysters in cages hung off their docks in Chesapeake Bay tributaries.
Volunteers get oyster spat on shells, provided by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences Horn Point Laboratory and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, around September and let them grow throughout the fall and all winter long. The volunteers occasionally clean the cages by knocking off any sediment collected on them.
The program has grown over the years to include 30 tributaries where oysters from 7,500 cages will be planted this year, an increase from around 850 cages in its first year, Judy said.
Come this time of year, local tributary coordinators will organize a day to pick up the cages from each volunteer’s dock, take the oysters to a roundup point and ship them out to a dedicated section of the tributary to plant them on the best available bottom for growing.
Chesapeake Bay “Advance and Protect” Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative, an organization started by Easton-born Scott Eglseder, had its oyster roundup day on Thursday, June 5.
Judy said the Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative doesn’t fit the typical mold of coordinators with MGO, in that the organization has growers based out of multiple tributaries on the Eastern Shore, as opposed to just centered around one tributary.
Its volunteers brought 326 cages worth of oysters from 84 growers to Easton Point and loaded them in buckets onto DNR boats. From there, the oysters were taken out to just south of Marker 11 on the Tred Avon River to a sanctuary named Orem.
Judy estimated there were 70 to 80 shells in each cage, 375 oysters per cage with about five spat on each shell, bringing the total to about 122,000 oysters planted in the Tred Avon River on Thursday.
But, that’s just one organization’s growers. Judy said there are 170 growers in the Tred Avon River alone, which is planted by DNR since that’s the original location where it started the project.
A number of other local MGO coordinations have planted their oysters, like Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries, which is located on the Chester River in Centreville.
In May, Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries planted four cages of spat on shells in the Lankford Bay, which is at the southern end of Chester River.
The oysters were growing since October, 2013. While the oysters were growing, Pecometh’s day campers did experiments in which they observed the oysters filter water, and examined water turbidity.
Megan Shitama, retreat programs coordinator at Pecometh Camp and Retreat Ministries, said the experiments were a great “hands-on thing to do with the kids.”
Judy said the efforts of all MGO’s volunteers are paying off.
”What we see in the areas we plant, say, a quarter acre to an acre in size ... we’ve seen population increases up to tenfold,” he said.
When there’s an abundant population of oysters in a tributary, the oysters will help filter and clean the water where they’re planted.
But, that’s not the only good they bring to a tributary.
”They attract a lot of other life, so you’re developing this rich reef ecosystem,” Judy said. “So you have the ecological component of all the other organisms growing with the oysters, you’ve got fish that come to the reef, because it’s now what they call live bottom, and you’ve got the filter.”
Judy said the hatchery oysters from Horn Point typically grow in clumps, with anywhere between three and 12 per shell in a clump.
He said that creates a “clumped ecology” that provides a three-dimensional relief to the bottom. Instead of one oyster lying flat on the bottom, the clumped oysters provide extra habitat for small reef organisms to live.
In its 20th year, the Oyster Recovery Partnership planted 175 million oysters on 55 acres in the Bay in May.
ORP’s oysters were planted in Harris Creek, which is the largest oyster restoration project underway along the East Coast, according to ORP.
“This is an exciting time for oysters,” ORP Executive Director Stephan Abel said. “Oysters are at the center of major water restoration efforts in the Bay and nationwide. Hatcheries are raising billions of oysters to build sanctuaries and boost aquaculture.”
Abel also said restaurants have discovered that serving sustainable raised oysters attracts customers and strengthens their businesses.
While Abel said there is still much work to be done with oyster restoration, government, environmental, seafood and business communities have produced “remarkable results” with the partnerships created that work toward strengthening the oyster population.
“We are demonstrating that working together we can make a difference,” Abel said.
Judy said on Saturday, June 7, three other Bay tributaries are set to be planted — the Severn River, Rock Creek and the Nanticoke River.

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