Feds Fund $470,000 for St. Leonard Research Center to Help Restore Oyster Population

Pilot program will be a partnership between the Calvert County Watermen’s Association and Morgan State University’s Environmental Research Center in St. Leonard

ST. LEONARD, Md. (Jan. 14, 2008)—U. S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) today toured the Morgan State Estuarine Research Center (ERC) and joined with U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.-5) in announcing $470,000 in new federal funding for a pilot program to help increase oyster production and the economic viability of the species.

Oysters play a key role in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay by filtering algae and improving water quality for all organisms. The Bay’s oyster population has seriously declined as a result of over harvesting, habitat loss, and devastating losses caused by parasites such as MSX and Dermo. The Chesapeake Bay oyster population has been reduced to only 1 to 3 percent of historic levels, adversely affecting Maryland watermen and the fishing industry.

“The demise of the Bay’s oyster populations is a tragedy for Maryland’s fishing industry and our environment,” said Senator Cardin. “I join Congressman Hoyer in fully supporting Morgan State and the Calvert County Watermen’s Association in their joint effort to develop a workable solution to help restore our once-thriving oyster industry.”

“Maryland has an economic, environmental and cultural stake in restoring the once plentiful oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay,” stated Rep. Hoyer. “We have great hope that this promising initiative will lead to breakthrough methods in oyster production that will help maintain the viability of Maryland’s oyster industry and significantly improve the overall health of the Bay.”

“This program creates a great opportunity for the Chesapeake Bay and the people who live and work on it. Morgan is committed to educating young people while at the same time revitalizing local watermen communities and contributing to the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Dr. Kelton Clark, Director Morgan State University Estuarine Research Center.

The pilot program will be a partnership between the Calvert County Watermen’s Association and Morgan State University’s Environmental Research Center, which is located on the Patuxent River in St. Leonard. The project will develop new methods of raising oyster larvae.

The plan calls for growing young oysters for a period in the hatchery at ERC before being “set” by watermen on oyster beds until the oysters reach market size. The procedure is known as “remote setting” and the goal is to significantly increase the number of healthy oysters growing in the Chesapeake. The partners hope to raise as many as 18 million young oysters using this method. Morgan State ultimately will create a business model that could be replicated by watermen throughout the Bay region.

Source: U. S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin

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