Oyster larvae under a microscope. Photo courtesy of the VA Oyster Restoration Team.
The staff and volunteers of Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, MD and sister center in Gloucester, VA have spent the spring getting ready for the next restoration season. As the oysters lay dormant in waters below as well as in the science labs where they are spawned, CBF’s oyster restoration team has been busy repairing tanks, performing boat maintenance, and planning the events for our upcoming season.
At MD’s Oyster Restoration Center (ORC), our four setting tanks were filled with more than 30 tons of shell before May 1. The oyster team was patiently awaiting news from University of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, MD that the first batch of oyster larvae was available. Two hard working alternative spring break groups (UMD and VA Tech) helped clean all the shell (shell shaking) for this season’s first set that includes 32 cages of shell that weight approximately a ton each. On Tuesday May 3 the first round of oyster
larvae from Horn Point totaling just over 7 million was divided and released into each of our four tanks.
The first oyster set of this season is now approaching the two-week mark in the tanks and the baby ‘spat’ are visible to the trained naked eye. The oyster larvae, known as "spat" for the first year of life, are free swimming for approximately two weeks of their entire life cycle. When they arrive from UMD’s Horn Point they are referred to as an "eyed larvae." They have a dark spot "false eye" on their newly forming translucent shell and a false foot that will aid in attaching to hard substrate as they each drop out of the water column. These four tanks of spat on shell are bound for a sanctuary reef in the Severn River.
To learn more about our oyster restoration efforts, visit our website.
(Second photo: CBF's Carmera Thomas and Dan Johannes excited about the first set of oyster larvae at MD's ORC. Photo by Karl Willey/CBF Staff. Third photo: The 'spat' are visable to the naked eye after 10 days in the tanks. Photo by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff.)