Oyster Gardening Feed

2013 MD Oyster Restoration Season Update

Just in case you were wondering Maryland's Oyster Center has produced (x) so far in 2013.

-Set 10 tanks (sets) of Spat On Shell yielding 10,880,066 baby 'spat' oysters

-Set 5 tanks (sets) of Spat On Reef Ball, that's 182 reef balls / oyster + critter condominiums out in the bay 

-Recycled 268.4 bushels of shell (Save Oyster Shell)

-Turned one of our four tanks over local watermen in the area switching to aquaculture for the remainder of the season. A great outreach program connecting watermen and CBF with the common goal of clean water and a HEALTHY Chesapeake Bay!

Blog graph Graph 2

Things are looking great so far this season. Keep your fingers crossed that the oyster larvae being produced at UMD's Horn Point Laboratory remain healthy and strong so we can have another banner year. 


- Meghan Hoffman

Tales Of A Passionate Oyster Gardener, Jamie Attanasio!

Jamie 1I have had the pleasure of working with Jame Attanasio and her parents since taking over the Oyster Gardening Program at CBF in 2010, yet her passion extends my tenure begining as a oyster gardener back to 2008. Jamie just completed her freshman year in high school in Montgomery County, but everytime I have a chance to catch up with Jamie she is involved in something new; she is young and full of adventure. Her passion for the critters and making the Chespeake Bay healthier, remains steadfast. Her inital oyster garden of 4 cages (which is the standard) has grown to 18 cages at Oak Grove Marina on the South River.  How many baby oysters has she raised, you ask? Why almost 60,000 thousand oysters, that is impressive! 


For the past three years she has also represented CBF and Oyster Gardening at Rockville Science Day.  Each year it attendance grows, with now over 3,000 people attending. Jamie, with the help of her friends and family, think of new and creative ways to teach/showcase the wonders of oysters for all ages to enjoy each year. Since she is still young herself, she had done a fabulous job connecting with the kids who line up to see and take part in activites at the 'cool oyster booth'. 

Jamie #3Jamie (far right) and friends at Rockville Science Day

The Attanasio family (Kevin, Ann, & Jamie) spend their free time boating in the Chespeake Bay near the South River. Kevin, Jamie's father, who comes from a family of watermen in New York, likes to help Jamie produce the biggest healthiest young oysters she can each season. So a little brainstorming and a few trips to the local hardware store later, all 18 oysters cages have been modified to help with maintaing the oysters and to protect the boats in the marina. The Attanasio family added simple PVC tubes on either side of the cages, thus making them buoyant and very visable. The tubes are slighly longer than the cages to protect the boats moving in and out of slips from dings and scratches. This adapted cage style keeps the oysters  at the top of the water column during the warmer months where food and oxygen are more abundant. During the cold winter months they remove the tubing and sink the cages, suspending each one just off the bottom to protect the precious baby oysters from the cold air during blow out tides. 

FloatsJamie's mom, Ann helping to unload oysters from cages

I want to end on a note of thanks. Jamie and her family are incredible stewards of the Chesapeake Bay and make my job very rewarding. Jamie Attanasio is a young leader I can't wait to see what adventures await her in the future. She will do great things, and she is ensuring her path in life promotes clean water and nature. 

Jamie young

If you want to become a CBF Oyster Gardener please visit our webiste and sign up for a workshop later in the fall. 

-Meghan Hoffman (photos courtesy of myself and the Attanasio Family)

Jame plus meghan

Early 2013 Oyster Restoration Highlights In Maryland


IMG_0731 IMG_0721

The 2013 oyster restoration season in Maryland has busy from day one. At MD's Oyster Restoration Center we are already on our second 'spat' set in the tanks. The four tanks were filled with spat-on-shell for the first set!  The first set totaled over 7 million spat, that is just fantastic! These 4 tanks were overseeded on an exisiting project in the Choptank River at Cooks Point that contains spat-on-shell, as well as spat on reef ball. Stay tuned to see where the next batch of oysters will call home. 

1st Tank Set 2013


IMG_0431Each Spring we ask the volunteers in Maryland's Oyster Gardening Program to return their yearling oysters in May so they can be placed out on a sanctuary reef early in the season. As oyster populations in the Bay continue to improve in health and abundance, we hope to see more spawning (breeding) in Maryland waters. Between May 1st through 5th, volunteers and I helped collect and plant over 100,000 yearling oysters. These oyster were planted in the Severn River, South River, Kent Narrows, Miles River, and Patuxent River. A special thanks to Kevin Green from the South River and Kurt Hein from the Patuxent River for lending their time to help make plantings in their river a sucess. Keep up the good work gardeners!

They support CLEAN WATER, do you?

2013 Oyster Gardening Yearling Returns

Oysters are essential to the health of the Chespeake Bay; scientists in Virginia and Maryland recently found that restored oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay can absorb up to 10 times more nitrogen than areas of the estuary without healthy reefs.  This study provided new evidence that replanting and rebuilding oyster reefs can clean up the nation’s largest estuary, according to the researchers. Take a look here:  “Denitrification and Nutrient Assimilation on a Restored Oyster Reef.”

-- Meghan Hoffman (CBF Staff)


What Is Your Favorite Oyster Reef Critter?


"Of All The Exciting Species Living On Oyster Reefs In Maryland Waters Of The Chesapeake Bay, Pipefish  Are Mesmerizing And Just Captivate My Attention!"- Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff

These small fish, related to seahorses, can be found hiding among oyster shells and underwater grasses in the Bay. Each oyster season I get exhilarated when I come across the Northern Pipefish as I lift an oyster cage out of the water, it is very rare to see 2 or 3 sightings! After a few moments of joy, then show and tell with other staff and volunteers, we all bid the pipefish farewell. If you have never had the pleasure of holding one in your hand, it can best be described as holding a squirming twig, it's unlike any other Bay critter and seeing one always make my day!

Pipfish_joe renyoldsPhoto by- Joe Reynolds

 "A little known fact about the pipefish is that it can move each of its eyes separately, although we don’t know exactly how this helps it."- Rugters Discover Fish Field Guide


"Blennies are my favorite Bay critter! I think they are so notorious and they look like little old men. Unlike other small fish around oyster reefs that hide, a blenny has no problem attacking your finger or any other fish that moves into its house!" -Carmera Thomas/CBF Staff

Blennies_bay.netPhoto by- Chesapeake Bay Program

An oyster reef is not complete without its own version of the mafia; "the blenny," is a species that always keeps order around the reef. Two different species (feathered and striped blenny) are predominate in the Maryland tributaries of the Bay. These fish grow to about 4 inches in length and are very feisty when you enter ‘their’ territory. These active fish will dart out, flair open their mouths and puff up their bodies to let humans and other critters to stay out of their neighborhood. They even try to put up a fight out of the water. Good news is, they don't pose any immediate danger to humans, they are all bark and no bite! 

Skillet Fish

“The first time I picked up a skillet fish it attached to my hand, which was a little terrifying, but I grew to enjoy finding them among the oyster cages and they are now my favorite critter. The Skillet Fish is the most resilient and interesting critter found among oyster reefs in Maryland. ” - Emily Rieck/CBF Oyster Intern

Skilltetfish_vimsPhoto by- Virginia Institute of Marine Science 

A skillet fish's most unique feature is its sucker! How many fish can top that? Evolution modified its pelvic fin into a sucker, what a stand out feature. If you have every tried to remove one from a fish tank or your dock they are tricky and determined to stay put.  Its almost cheetah-print like pattern is beautiful. This pattern allows the skillet fish to camouflage itself in shallow water, to hide and survive in the reef. 

Skilletfish_disk_vimsPhoto by- Virginia Institute of Marine Science

American Eel

 “Let’s be honest, the American eel is the most patriotic fish on the oyster reef.” –Ray McClain/ Chesapeake Conservation Corps Volunteer, CBF

Illustration by- MD Department of Natural Resources, 
Duanne Raver

What is so great about the American eel? Well, besides having “America” right in its name, this slippery fish lives a quite mysterious life. The American eel is one of the few fish species that is catadromous (living in fresh water but migrating to saltwater to breed). While the eel lives in the more freshwater areas of Chesapeake Bay, every January this mysterious creature will swim out to the saltwater of the Sargasso Sea to spawn at depths near 6,000 feet. If that is not cool enough, this fish can breathe through its skin!

--Meghan Hoffman with contribution by Emily Rieck, Carmera Thomas, and Ray McClain 

Record Season for CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Center

ORC Good photo
CBF’s Maryland Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side (Photo by Karl Willey/CBF Staff)


Two Week Old Spat On Shell
Several of the 23 million ‘spat’ produced this year at MD’s Oyster Restoration Center. At this size approximately 2 weeks old they are placed our on a sanctuary reef to grow immediately they start to improve water quality and provide 3-dimensional habitat (Photo by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff)

At Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland it has been a recording setting season, with just over 23 million ‘spat’ (baby oysters) seeded on oysters reefs between May and October. Typically the center averages a ‘spat’ production between 15-18 million. We are ecstatic with this season’s numbers and the health of the young oysters being placed on sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland’s waters in the bay. Our success each season is due to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers


CBF Staff and volunteers about to seed ‘spat’ on shell on an oyster reef (Photo by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff)


At the Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, MD, we are especially indebted, as much of what we do would be nearly impossible without the help of our volunteers. Whether they have given us their time for year, a matter of weeks, or for just one event each and every one is an integral part of what makes the work we do possible. Many come from different backgrounds of discipline and are experts in varying fields, and each provides their own invaluable knowledge to the oyster restoration program.


2012 ORC Restoration Focus Areas
CBF’s MD Oyster Center’s 2012 Oyster Restoration Focus Areas


This season MD’s oyster restoration efforts were focused in the Choptank, Severn, and West Rivers. All of CBF’s projects in Maryland waters occur in sanctuary (non-harvest) areas as designated by Governor O’Malley.  After building or re-seeding existing reefs CBF’s oyster team monitors the health of our reefs checking for density, survival, natural ‘spat’ set, and presence of disease. The monitoring data is very encouraging; generally the reefs after one year have better than 75% survival rate. That is great news for the Chesapeake Bay. Check out what is going on below the surface.  The learn more about our program please visit our website. If you have any questions or want to volunteer please contact cthomas@cbf.org

Toadfish With Mature Oysters
A Toadfish blending in among healthy mature oysters in Choptank River (Photo by Michale Eversmier)
Black Sea Bass With Reef Ball In Choptank
This oyster reef in the Choptank River is healthy and thriving. Rare sighting of a Black Sea Bass in Maryland waters, yet another signs restoration is working (Photo by Michale Eversmier)

--Meghan Hoffman









Things Are ‘Spat’astic at CBF’s New Office in Easton, MD

On June 11, 2012 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation opened a new office on the Eastern Shore (pictured below), located in the heart of Easton. The new office in the Bullitt House on E. Dover Street (right across from the Tidewater Inn) will directly support our efforts to defend and implement the Bay clean water blueprint in Maryland.

CBF's MD Oyster Gardening Program was established in 1998 and has been serving as a method of direct engagement with improving the Bay's water quality for more than a decade. The fight for clean water is well under way but more needs to be done. CBF's Eastern Shore office is focusing on educating and motivating citizens to help support clean water efforts and fighting back against efforts to increase pollution in the area.

Clean Water Now With Oysters

On September 14th and September 22nd CBF's MD Oyster Gardeners stopped by Chesapeake BayFoundation's new office in Easton, MD to meet Bess Trout, MD's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist (shown below), and to pick up their new set of 'spat' from Meghan Hoffman and Carmera Thomas. Year after year CBF's oyster gardeners' on the Eastern Shore produce some great looking oysters.

Excited new gardeners Lee Travers and Barbara Catherwood (both shown in the photo below) attended CBF's Oyster Workshop on Sept 22nd and built 8 cages to hang off their pier. Recently they purchased a 10 acre tract of land (4 acres of wetlands) on the Little Choptank and were eager to help SAVE THE BAY!


Noah Bradshaw (shown below) a long time gardener from Crisfield, MD made the drive to Easton to pick up 8 bags of 'spat'. With the help of several volunteers, he tends a collection of Taylor Floats and cages at the Crisfield Museum. There is an educational oyster reef at the museum where visitors can learn the history of oystering in a watermen's community, and enjoy an interactive experience of tonging up oysters using hand nippers.

Just as the event was winding down on the first official day of fall, Eric Axilbund (shown below) pulls into the Bullit House parking lot eager to pick up his new set of 'spat' and to drop off close to 4,000 large and healthy yearling oysters. He is an energetic and enthusiastic gardener that keeps 12 cages of oysters off his dock, while a typical gardener keeps four. Most gardeners return their 'spat' in May, but Mr. Axilbund likes to see how big his oysters will get, so he tends his cages for a full year. His contribution doubled our oyster returns for the day!


CBF's Maryland Oyster Gardening Program only has two workshops left this fall, and we look forward to signing up new gardeners who are excited about restoring an important species in the Bay! Individual actions do make a difference, make a stand for CLEAN WATER NOW and join CBF's Oyster Gardening Program.

(Photos by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff. Photo One: CBF's Eastern Shore Office on the 3rd Floor of the Bullit Building. Photo Two: Choose Clean Water Now! and 2012 Oyster Gardening 'Spat' on Shell. Photo Three: Bess Trout CBF's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist covered in oyster much at Horn Point Labratory. Photo Four: Lee Travers and Barbara Catherwood of Cambridge, MD making their oyster gardening cages. Photo Five: Oyster Gardener Noah Bradshaw of Crisfield, MD. Photo Six: Oyster Gardener Eric Axilbund with his 2012 crop of yearling oysters. Photo Six: Oyster Love, Stickers, 'Spat' and More.)

-- Meghan Hoffman with contribution from Carmera Thomas

CBF's Yearly MD Oyster Gardening Trip To Horn Point ('Spat' Attack)

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!  IMG_3292

 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. IMG_3347

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. IMG_3371
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