DNR Expands Citizen Oyster Growing Program

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Maryland’s citizen oyster growing program is expanding for 2009, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assist in coordinating the effort in local tributaries. Launched by Governor Martin O’Malley in September 2008, Marylanders Grow Oysters fosters stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay among citizens, and creates living oyster reef populations in protected sanctuaries to help restore the iconic species.

“I like to call this program ‘Head Start’ for oysters,” said Governor O’Malley. “It is a unique and fun way to enlist Maryland families in helping rebuild our oyster population, and create a smarter, greener more sustainable future for our State, our children, and our beloved Chesapeake Bay.”

Through the cooperative efforts of DNR and numerous partners, last fall 177 waterfront property owners began growing oysters in 854 oyster cages along the Tred Avon River in the first phase of the program. In 2009, the program will expand to other tributaries.

This year DNR is seeking NGOs to act as local project coordinators who will identify waterfront property owners willing to become oyster growers and deliver oyster cages and oysters to growers in the tributary. The NGOs can be community associations, non-profit organizations, RiverKeepers or similar groups.

Through the 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 then collected and planted in a local oyster sanctuary, and a new group of young oysters are distributed to participating growers to start the process again.

Interested NGOs should visit http://www.oysters.maryland.gov/pdfs/Oyster_App_Doc.pdf to obtain an application. Applications will be accepted until May 22. Contact Chris Judy at 410-260-8259 or cjudy@dnr.state.md.us for any additional information.

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