Oysters are an important natural resource. A mature oyster filters 30 to 50 gallons of water each day and their reefs provide habitat for other aquatic life. Sadly, the number of oysters in the Bay is less than 1% of historic levels. Partnering with the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Marylanders Grow Oysters, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, Project Oyster West River (POWeR), and nearly 100 waterfront oyster growers, the Federation places millions of oyster spat (baby oysters) into sanctuary areas in the rivers each year. The spat measure about 1.5 cm (0.6 inch) and are attached to oyster shell recovered from restaurants around the bay region. Host shells provide structure and habitat for countless other aquatic wildlife and help kick-start an oyster reef eco-system. Rockfish (striped bass) and blue crabs often are found around oyster reefs.
The Federation coordinates around 100 oyster growers near the rivers who care for square cages of oysters that they hang from their piers. This provides some filtration and micro oyster-reef habitat in the creeks. In late summer to early fall, the growers pick up their spat from designated locations. It only takes a few weeks for oyster-based aquatic wildlife like mud crabs, scuds, blennies, and gobies to find their way to the oyster cages. Growers provide tens of thousands of year-old oysters, measuring about an inch, to sanctuary reefs each year. These oysters have much lower mortality rates than brand-new spat.
For more information about growing oysters, read the CBF’s Oyster gardening for restoration and education.