This year’s annual trip to Horn Point Lab/ Hatchery (HPL) was on August 22nd, 2012 in Cambridge Maryland to pick up CBF’s supply of ‘spat’-on-shell bags for MD’s Oyster Gardening Program, was nothing short of a great success. Half the volunteers arrive by land and the other half by sea, in a united effort with the help of the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Work Crew to empty two tanks of shell bags, slinging oyster muck at one another in the process. Within minutes of the first bags are being lifted out of the tanks, and passed along an assembly line of people to their temporary home of wooden pallets, the mud starts accumulating on the volunteers’ gloves and more!
Before you know it, the group has broken a sweat and volunteers have fallen into a rhythm of passing shell bags from the tank onto the pallets; which engages a friendly competition between the two tanks. The mission is to see who can (light-hearted friendly competition) empty a tank of approximately 600 ‘spat’-on-shell bags first.
1200 ‘spat’-on-shells bags later, divided into 24 pallets of 50 bags a piece, the mission is complete. The towering pallets are transported by bobcat down to the docks. Using the crane on the deck of RV Patricia Campbell all 24 pallets are lifted and stacked aboard her deck, soon to make their way back across the Bay to Mill Creek and Harness Creek (CBF’s oyster nursery locations).
Part two of the journey is about to begin, but not before Stephanie Tobash Alexander, Oyster Hatchery Manager at HPL, is kind enough to give CBF staff and volunteers a tour of the hatchery. During the tour we are guided through the lab where oysters are spawned and larvae is collected. Each year the hatchery produces oyster larvae from May until late August/ early September; batches of several million larvae are sent throughout the state for restoration and commercial use. Prior to leaving the lab every batch of larvae is reared in tanks. During their larval stage which lasts 10-14 days computers and scientists monitor their health and growth. The tanks are periodically drained and the larvae are sorted by size.
The hatchery continually cultures 4 different strains of algae to feed the larval oysters. With the integration of technology all the larvae batches can be fed unique blends of algae every several hours, even during weekends and holidays when staff isn’t present. This unique system allows the larvae to be constantly fed ever several hours dramatically reducing their stress. Healthyand “happy” batches of larvae have higher setting efficiencies (higher ‘spat’ counts per parent shell) than batches which experience stress during their growth (lack of food, changes in water temperature or salinity). All the larvae used at CBF’s Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland for our spat on shell and spat on reef ball projects come from HPL.
After the tour, CBF and some volunteers, make the trip back across the Bay to deposit the spat bags into two different rivers. This is the second part of the day. The RV PatriciaCampbell’s first stop was at Greenbury Point in Mill Creek. This is the nursery location of MD’s Oyster Gardening program.
The oyster ‘spat’ will continue to grow and thrive here while they wait to be handed out at upcoming events this fall. The second stop is Harness Creek in the South River to deposit 150 spat bags in partnership with South River Federation’s Flood Bucket Program. A founding member and current board member of the South RiverFederation, JohnFlood devised a system of growing young spat in 5 gallon paint buckets suspended underwater with numerous holes drilled to provide flush and exchange of nutrients.
After a long, fun and messy day, the trip finally ends back at the Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side. This annual trip is a great way for volunteers to be involved with oyster restoration; to hear more about theMD Oyster Gardening Program and continued restoration efforts in Maryland and Virginia as a whole. If you want to get involved in CBF’s MD Oyster Gardening Program, please register to attend one of our workshops this fall and fall in love with oysters and vibrant life that call their reefs home.
To learn more about our oyster restoration efforts, visit our website.
To sign up to attend a fall oyster gardening workshop vist our MD Oyster Gardening website.
(Photo One:CBF's MD Oyster Team & Volunteers at Horn Point Pre Oyster Muck. Photo Two:Staff and Volunteers Passing Spat On Shell Bags From Tank To Pallet. Photo Three: Volunteer Llyod Lewis on Deck PC With 2400 Bags Of Spat On Shell. Photo Four: Stephanie Tobash Alexander Explaining How HPL Hatchery Operates. Photo Five: Sterile Algae Cultures Which Feed The Oyster Larvae At HPL Hatchery. Photo Six: Unloading Pallets At Mill Creek Oyster Nursery. (Photo exception taken by Nikki Smith/CBF Volunteer) Photo Seven: CBF's MD Oyster Team & Volunteers at Horn Point Post Oyster Muck. All Photos by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff.
-- Meghan Hoffman with contribution from Carmera Thomas