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Marylanders Grow Oysters Program Continues to Expand in 2012 | Maryland DNR Fisheries Service News
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Marylanders Grow Oysters Program Continues to Expand in 2012

8/15/2012  |   Posted by jdavidsburg

Tags: Marylanders Grow Oysters  

Annapolis, Md. (August 14, 2012) ─ Seven new tributaries are now a part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters program for 2012, adding even more momentum to the extremely popular and well received citizen oyster growing initiative. Each year, the program accepts applications from groups of community members near tributaries wishing to join the effort. This year there were seven applicants, all of which were accepted. The new areas are: Bodkin, Oyster, Pope’s, and Crab Alley creeks, Little Choptank and Rhode rivers, and Swan Cove in Harris Creek.

“Now in its fifth year, Marylanders Grow Oysters has grown tremendously since 2008, from 1 tributary to 24 last year,” said Program Manager Chris Judy. “The program’s continued success is made possible thanks to the local coordinators and all of the growers who volunteer to raise these oysters during their first year of life.”

The new applicants will begin growing oysters this September once the spat (baby oysters) are available from the University of Maryland hatchery. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Oyster Recovery Partnership will then deliver cages and spat so the growers can begin their role as oyster caretakers.

Through the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, volunteer growers tend to the young oysters held in wire mesh cages suspended from private piers. The oysters require minimal care – mostly rinsing the cages every two weeks. After about nine months, the oysters are removed from the cages and planted in a sanctuary, an area closed to harvest. A new group of young oysters is then distributed to participating growers to start the process again. Citizen oyster growers enjoy the personal rewards of stewardship and learning about oysters, while contributing to the enhancement of an oyster reef.

Governor Martin O’Malley launched Marylanders Grow Oysters in 2008 as part of the State’s Smart Green and Growing initiative. The program began with about 900 oyster cages, cared for by 170 growers, along the Tred Avon River. DNR expanded the program with various oyster partners and now about 7,500 cages, tended by approximately 1,500 growers, are located in 24 tributaries. Last year, citizen volunteers raised more than 2 million new oysters that were planted in sanctuaries throughout Maryland waters. The new growers will further add to this effort once they receive their spat and cages.

The Marylanders Grow Oysters Program is managed by DNR in conjunction with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, which produces the majority of the spat, and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, where inmates assist with building cages and spat production.

“Oyster reefs are one of the most endangered habitats on the planet, so every oyster plays a role in restoring the Chesapeake Bay,” said Stephan Abel, executive director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership. “The Marylanders Grow Oysters program provides an effective tool to connect the public with the importance of oyster restoration in the Chesapeake and the life it sustains.”

More information about the program is available at http://oysters.maryland.gov/.

In February, Governor Martin O’Malley announced another landmark in the State’s ongoing efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay’s native oyster population. Results of Maryland’s 2011 Fall Oyster Survey show the highest survival rate for oysters since 1985. The 92 percent survival rate — the percentage of oysters found alive in a sample — builds upon last year’s strong spatset (number of baby oysters), which was the highest since 1997.