In May, my son-in-law, with help from my grandsons, completed our second year participating in the Maryland Oyster Gardening Program sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).
The purpose of the project is to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay by restoring native oysters to the Bay. The CBF’s 2022 State of the Bay report assessed the Bay’s health overall score at 32, a D-plus. Oysters are hungry critters that improve the health of our Bay by feeding on algae and excess nutrients resulting in cleaner water. Oysters also create crucial reef habitat for many other tasty Bay friends like blue crabs and rockfish.
Each fall, the Maryland oyster restoration coordinator at CBF, Kellie Fiala, conducts oyster gardening workshops for CBF members and volunteers. Participants are instructed on oyster ecology, the importance of the Chesapeake Bay to the development of oysters, and how to build and care for oyster cages. CBF supplies the equipment and the oyster shells with implanted oyster spat. We made our cages of heavy grade basket wire. They are approximately three cubic feet in size with a removable top which is secured by plastic ties.
We became involved in this program two years ago. As a member of Chesapeake Yacht Club (CYC), I believed it would be a perfect location to begin this project. We placed 15 cages into the water which contained approximately 25-35 oyster shells with oyster spat attached. Every two to three weeks during the fall, winter, and spring months we meet at the club to clean the cages of accumulated silt and growth in order to keep the water flowing through each cage. Each May we return the oyster cages to the CBF location near Annapolis where they are taken on a large oyster planting boat to already existing oyster reef areas around the Bay or placed in areas to begin new oyster reefs. This year we had record setting shells with some having over 24 baby oysters on a single shell!
Now is the time to register at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's website (Maryland Oyster Gardening program or Virginia Oyster Gardening program) to participate this fall. To learn more about CYC, visit chesapeakeyachtclub.org.
By Steve Lindblom