Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The World Is Your Oyster: Marylanders Grow Oysters Program

There's a saying that goes like this: "The world is your oyster." 

It means you can go anywhere and do anything, you've got opportunity galore ahead.

It's interesting, because oysters do just that for the Chesapeake Bay. They are pretty remarkable and powerhouses on their own accord. This infographic gives a quick visual overview:

About a week and a half ago, I got to be a part of some oyster opportunity in the making. As one of the Board of Directors of Maryland Yacht Club Maritime Foundation (MYCMF), I got to see some environmental stewardship in action. The vision of MYCMF is to "inspire and motivate communities to connect with waterways through interactive life experiences." Our mission:

Taking part in the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, Maryland Yacht Club was the staging center on Thursday, September 17th for a giant drop off of nearly 100 bags of oysters, with MYCMF members keeping it running like a well-oiled ship. With the help of a local school and their battalion of 5th graders, these bags of oysters were deposited into the waters of Rock Creek off the Patapsco River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. I was not there that day, but it stirred up memories as a delightful throwback to my days at Eagle Cove School when we got to see the kid-side of our oyster crew, with them in action.

Two days later on Saturday, the oysters were again "on the move" on a sunny, windy, feeling-like-fall kind of day. These baby oysters were destined to exchange their 2-day home in the creek at Maryland Yacht Club for their home for the year ahead. Marylanders who wish to donate their time, effort, and their docks sign up to be part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program. Currently, over 1,500 volunteers who own water-front property hang oyster cages from their docks to help grow these baby oysters. This protected aquatic environment is vital for their first year of life. In June, these oysters will be relocated to oyster sanctuaries.

We were the oyster pick-up point for folks who live on Stoney Creek, Nabbs Creek, and Rock Creek who signed up to harvest the baby oysters. Really, a small cog in the wheel of the whole program for the entire state of Maryland. For about an hour and a half during the 4 hour Saturday pick-up block, I was there to lend a helping hand if needed. However, I must say, it was a pretty smooth process, already underway! 

Fun Facts from the day:
  • Baby oysters are called spat once the oyster larvae has attached to empty, cleaned reclaimed oyster shells. Several oyster spat can attach to the same shell.
  • One bag of oysters is the equivalent of 3 oyster cages.
  • One cage holds approximately 150 oyster spat.
  • Once they have been harvested for the year, the spat will be approximately 1 inch in diameter. They will be planted in local oyster sanctuaries (often called oyster beds or reefs) where they will go to work filtering the tributaries and becoming home to many marine species. 
  • Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.
  • Numbers from the day:
    • Stoney & Nabbs Creek had 26 oyster growers with 82 cages hanging from their piers.
    • Rock Creek had 71 oyster growers with 197 pier-hanging cages.
    • Come June, that means we will plant approximately 42,000 oysters on the Ft. Carroll reef (the "forever home" of these li'l guys.)
  • Speaking of guys, oysters begin as males, but can change their gender as needed over their lifetime.

May the world be your oyster... and thanks to the 97 area folks who are helping to grow oysters locally, taking that opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves. Such gratitude for these environmental stewards who are raising oysters which will filter the bay. By volunteering like this to do something bigger than themselves, they have made it possible for all of us to go forward and enjoy the beauty and benefits of the Chesapeake Bay.

The world is our oyster, indeed!

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