What Are You Thankful For?
Photo of the Week: Belle Isle in November

Giving Thanks to the Oyster

The following originally appeared on AnnapolisPatch yesterday.

OysterPhoto courtesy of Tom Zolper/CBF Staff.

As our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and stuffing, it's appropriate to think of baby oysters.

If we relish the traditional oyster stuffing of the Chesapeake Bay region, or oysters on a half shell, we must ensure there are still oysters in the Bay.

To that end, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a larger coalition of groups called the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) are rebuilding and planting oyster reefs around the Bay.

During the 2012 season, this coalition of partners deployed 634 million spat on shell (baby oysters) in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. In all, the coalition has planted nearly 4 billion oysters on 1,500 acres of oyster reefs!

Last week, CBF’s special oyster planting boat the Patricia Campbell could be seen adding oyster spat to Salt Works Creek on the Severn. About 500 bags of oyster shell with spat attached were deployed in the creek. That's about 450,000 baby oysters given a place to grow, and hopefully reproduce. Altogether, CBF planted about 1.7 million oysters this year at the one-acre oyster reef in Salt Works.

That is a relatively small number of oysters compared to the billions planted around the Bay. But every oyster helps. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.

CBF has a facility in Shady Side on the West River to grow oysters from larvae to one-year-old spat. The organization also uses a site in Mill Creek to store those juvenile oysters until they are deployed at an oyster reef. CBF staff and volunteers picked up spat at Shady Side and Mill Creek for the Salt Works Creek deployment Nov. 12.

But the oyster restoration effort also needs your help, especially securing old oyster shells. Young oysters need to attach themselves to existing shells. But shells are getting scarce. That’s where you come in.

CBF, ORP, and now Anne Arundel County run programs to collect oyster shells for re-use. Many shells come from restaurants. But individuals can contribute their leftovers (just shells please, no cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie!).

Here are links for information about where you can drop off your shells near Annapolis.

  • Anne Arundel County recycling convenience centers in Millersville, Glen Burnie and Sudley.
  • CBF’s Save Oyster Shell program
  • ORP’s collection sites near Annapolis are: 1) the Annapolis Maritime Museum, 723 2nd Street, Annapolis, 2) Oyster Recovery Partnership Office, 1805 Virginia Street, Annapolis, 3) W.H. Harris Seafood, 425 Kent Narrow Way North, Grasonville.

And of course to help oysters survive we also must reduce the pollution we discharge into local waters. That means pollution running off our landscape after storms, pollution from sewage plants and dirt from construction sites to name a few. It does no good to try to repopulate oysters if dirt washes into creeks, and covers up and kills the oyster beds.

And for anyone who actually wants help raise oysters from larvae to spat and has access to some waterfront, you might want to get involved in one of the several oyster gardening programs in the area.

Oysters taste better when we've helped ensure their future survival!

—Tom Zolper


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