State and Partners Kick off the 2010 Oyster Planting Season

Growth in Oyster Restoration Programs Spur Hope to Exceed 2009 Revitalization Numbers

ANNAPOLIS (May 9, 2010) – Maryland Oyster partners united once again for the official start of the 2010 oyster planting season and the Marylanders Grow Oyster Program. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) and the non-profit Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) joined together as the first of 10.3 million oyster spat were planted on the State’s Bank protected sanctuary bar in the Upper Choptank River.

“Here in Maryland we are extremely fortunate to have partners like ORP, who last year planted a record 750 million spat raised by the Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery. Through the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, our great citizen stewards are doing their part as well,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “Today, encouraged by the resurgence in our blue crab population—the result of bold management actions—we are preparing to adopt an Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development plan that will help us restore a sustainable oyster population to the Chesapeake Bay and build an aquaculture industry that will create jobs in Maryland.”

Oyster reefs are critical to the Bay’s recovery. A healthy oyster reef not only filters the Bay’s dirty waters, but also provides crucial substrate for an underwater community that furnishes valuable life support for fish and crabs. Significant numbers of plantings in recent years are leading the way to a viable future for the oyster population. Each year, the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s field operation transports hundreds of millions of hatchery-raised, spat-on-shell oysters produced at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory and plants them on hundreds of acres of pre-selected and prepared oyster reefs around Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

“Without oysters, our Bay’s health and the marine life that relies on these vital reefs will not improve,” said Stephan Abel, Executive Director for the Oyster Recovery Partnership. “This gives us renewed enthusiasm each planting season knowing we are making a positive impact."

The oyster restoration process involves several steps that take place throughout the year. Maryland watermen collect adult oysters which are then spawned at the UMCES Horn Point Laboratory oyster hatchery. The oyster larvae produced by these spawns are fed cultured algae and allowed to develop under controlled conditions until they are ready to set – the process whereby oyster larvae permanently attach themselves to shell. The larvae are placed into specially constructed tanks at Horn Point that have been filled by ORP with aged, cleaned oyster shells.

The resulting shells with the newly created oyster spat (spat on shell) are loaded onto vessels for deployment and then planted on pretreated restoration sites throughout the Bay by the Oyster Recovery Partnership, and monitored by the University of Maryland and DNR for growth and health. Restoration sites are selected by DNR through a consensus-based coalition that includes ORP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), UMCES, the Maryland Waterman’s Association and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Major financial support for these efforts comes from NOAA, DNR, UMCES and ORP.

Source: Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

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