by Alicia Pimental
October 01, 2009
The state of Maryland planted nearly 750 million baby oysters – called oyster spat – in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers in 2009, surpassing last year’s total of 600 million spat and marking a new record for the state’s oyster restoration program.
The oyster spat were grown at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore near Cambridge. Using the spat, Maryland was able to revitalize 350 acres of oyster reefs on 26 sites across the Bay and its rivers.
Part of the reason for the large increase in spat production was an expanded partnership between UMCES, the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, in which waterfront property owners raise hatchery-reared oyster spat in cages. Residents along 12 Maryland rivers are currently growing oyster spat in more than 5,000 cages; next year the spat will be transferred to oyster sanctuaries throughout the Bay.
“At a time when we are escalating all of our efforts to restore the Bay, this record planting – along with record involvement by citizen stewards in oyster restoration – gives us tremendous confidence for increasing the Bay’s oyster population,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in a statement.
The oyster restoration process involves several steps:
- Adult oysters are collected by watermen as part of the restoration program.
- The collected oysters are spawned at the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory oyster hatchery.
- The oyster larvae produced by these spawns are fed cultured algae and allowed to develop until they are ready to permanently attach themselves to shell (called “setting”).
- The larvae are placed into specially constructed tanks at Horn Point that are filled with aged, cleaned oyster shells.
- The larvae attach themselves to the shells and become spat.
- The spat on shell are planted by the Oyster Recovery Partnership on pretreated restoration sites throughout the Bay. DNR and the University of Maryland and DNR monitor the sites for growth and health.
Watch these two videos for a further explanation on how oyster spat are produced at the Horn Point Laboratory:
Maryland is poised to continue surpassing its oyster spat production levels each year, according to UMCES president Dr. Donald Boesch. A new oyster setting facility at the Horn Point Laboratory will potentially allow UMCES to produce up to two billion oyster spat per year.
Want to do your part to help the Bay’s oysters? If you live on the water in Maryland, check out the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, which is now open to residents on 12 of the state’s rivers, including the Annemessex, Magothy and St. Mary’s.