Oysters are an important natural resource. They filter the water and oyster reefs provide habitat for other aquatic life. Sadly, the number of oysters in the Bay is near 1% of the historic levels. To help bring more oysters to our rivers West/Rhode Riverkeeper partners with two programs, the Marylanders Grow Oysters Progam in the Rhode River and Project Oyster West River (POWeR) in the West River. With both of these programs we work to get the public involved in taking care of their own “mini oyster reef” where wildlife of all kinds thrive.
In the Rhode River
We’ve been working with the Marylanders Grow Oysters program since 2012. We work with our members who volunteer to grow oysters off of their private and community docks in the Rhode River. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources provides cages and bags of oyster shells set with spat, or baby oysters. Volunteers then pick up their spat in early fall.
Our volunteer growers then care for the spat over the winter during the first delicate months of their lives. By spring, the spat are considered oysters and are strong enough to be taken out and planted on local oyster reefs.
To do this West/Rhode Riverkeeper organizes events, usually in mid-June, to collect the oysters and goes out to plant them on the reef. The oysters then live out the rest of their lives providing great habitat for fish and crabs along with filtering the Chesapeake Bay’s water.