River coordinators from 13 of 18 Chesapeake Bay participating tributaries met on March 2 with Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff on Kent Island to prepare for the Marylanders Grow Oysters summer growing season.
The 13 local program sponsors, managers from the DNR Fisheries Service shellfish division and the Oyster Recovery Partnership spent the day discussing the results of the past three years, the benefits of the program for oysters and for the Bay citizenry, and how the program can be improved.
Coordinators shared their experiences and advice with one another to improve their efforts and methods. They also discussed logistics for the collection of oysters this summer, which will be planted in local sanctuaries. Last summer, approximately 1.9 million oysters were grown by the volunteer growers and were planted in sanctuaries.
Through the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, citizen volunteers tend to young oysters growing in wire mesh cages suspended from private piers for their first year of life. The oyster spat and cages are provided by DNR and other program partners at no charge to the volunteers. The oysters require minimal care – mostly rinsing the cages every two weeks.
Citizen oyster growers enjoy the personal rewards of stewardship and learn about oysters while contributing to the enhancement of an oyster reef in their local tributary. The year-old oysters are collected and planted in a local oyster sanctuary, and a new group of young oysters is distributed to participating growers to start the process again.
In more good news for Maryland’s native oyster, DNR’s most recent oyster survey showed promising results. The number of spat or baby oysters in Maryland waters is at its highest level since 1997, the survival rate for young oysters is also up and more Marylanders are looking to start up or expand aquaculture businesses.
Governor O’Malley launched the program in 2008 with nearly 900 oyster cages along the Tred Avon River. DNR expanded the program with various oyster partners and now about 8,000 cages, tended by approximately 1,500 growers, are located in 18 tributaries. The oyster cages are built by Maryland inmates at Maryland Correctional Enterprises in Hagerstown and the Eastern Pre-Release Unit in Church Hill. Additional inmates assist with oyster spat production at the DNR hatchery in St. Mary’s County.
The Marylanders Grow Oysters Program is managed by the DNR in conjunction with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science which produces the majority of the spat, and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
For more information about Marylanders Grow Oysters visit oysters.maryland.gov
source: MD DNR