|Locally raised oysters being "planted" in West River|
Oysters are an important natural resource. They filter the water and oyster reefs provide habitat for other aquatic life. Sadly, the number of oysters in the Bay is near 1% of the historic levels. To help bring more oysters to our rivers West/Rhode Riverkeeper partners with two programs, the Marylanders Grow Oysters Progam in the Rhode River and Project Oyster West River (POWeR) in the West River. With both of these programs we work to get the public involved in taking care of their own "mini oyster reef" where wildlife of all kinds thrive.
In the Rhode River
We've been working with the Marylanders Grow Oysters program since 2012. We work with our members who volunteer to grow oysters off of their private and community docks in the Rhode River. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources provides cages and bags of oyster shells set with spat, or baby oysters. Volunteers then pick up their spat in early fall.
Our volunteer growers then care for the spat over the winter during the first delicate months of their lives. By spring, the spat are considered oysters and are strong enough to be taken out and planted on local oyster reefs.
To do this West/Rhode Riverkeeper organizes events, usually in mid-June, to collect the oysters and goes out to plant them on the reef. The oysters then live out the rest of their lives providing great habitat for fish and crabs along with filtering the Chesapeake Bay's water.
The Rhode River Oyster Growers Standard Operations Procedures tells you everything that is involved in caring for oyster cages at your dock.
Volunteers can track their oyster's growth and survival using an Oyster Growth and Mortality Document (Click Here for the Word Document; Click Here for the PDF Version). Monitor as often as you'd like by following the directions on the document and submit data quarterly to Jeff Holland at email@example.com. We can use your data to determine how well the oysters are growing in a given year.
To learn more about oyster gardening as a whole try out this resource about the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Program. This resource is filled with good information on how to care for your oysters.
You can learn about oyster restorations, the Marylanders Grow Oyster Program and how to hang and maintain your oyster cages in this YouTube Video.
For more information on the Rhode River MGO program or to learn how you can participate, please contact Jeff Holland at 410-867-7171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the West River
POWeR works with local citizens and groups to grow oysters from spat (baby oysters) in order to place them in non-harvested reefs in the West River. If you would like to learn more about POWeR, please visit their website, http://www.westriveroyster.org. If you are interested in oyster gardening in the West River then visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's website.
Don't forget to recycle your oyster shell!
Leave your shells at a drop off point close to you so that they can be used in restoration work. Or if you buy your oysters from a local waterman see if they'd like the shell back. If they use aquaculture to harvest their oysters then getting shell can be an expensive part of the aquaculture process. Please visit this link to find a drop off point close to you (we have one right outside our office): http://www.cbf.org/how-we-save-the-bay/programs-initiatives/maryland/oyster-restoration/save-oyster-shell