Charles Commissioners Approve Grant for Oyster Reseeding Project

LA PLATA, Md. (May 9, 2010)—On Tuesday afternoon, May 4, the Charles County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a one-time $20,000 grant to the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP). The one-time grant is provided through the Economic Development Department’s escrow fund. The previous Economic Development Commission, which dissolved in 2005, maintained private funds which were transferred to the County and to be used solely for economic development purposes in Charles County.

During the Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday afternoon, the Oyster Recovery Partnership made a presentation to the Commissioners about oyster reseeding and restoration in Charles County. Oyster Recovery Partnership, a non-profit, has a 15 year history of successfully bringing together state and federal government agencies, scientists, watermen and conservation organizations towards the common goal of oyster restoration.

The goal of restoring oysters will aid in cleaning the Chesapeake Bay and it’s waters, preserve our cultural heritage and protect our economic future. Oysters are a keystone species for the Bay and are vital to its long-term recovery. Oysters are the Bay’s primary filtration system and provide a rich habitat for many other species, including blue crabs.

Oysters have been decimated by disease, siltation, poor water quality and historical overharvesting of a mismanaged fishery. Recovery and restoration efforts of oysters have been hampered by disease, sedimentation, low dissolved oxygen, low natural recruitment, juvenile production and harvest activity.

There are several steps involved with restoring an oyster reef, including:

• Selecting rivers/oyster bars for restoration and planting

• Conducting oyster bar surveys to locate areas of exposed shell/shell deposits on the river bottom

• Construction a reef and preparing the oyster bar for seeding

• Examining river bottom conditions prior to planting to identify best locations for oyster spat survival

• Producing, transporting, and planting oyster spat (an oyster in the larval stage)

• Monitoring post planting

During the process of oyster spat production, adult oysters (broodstock) collected by Maryland watermen are 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 a shell. The larvae are placed into specially constructed tanks at Horn Point Hatchery that have been filled by the Oyster Recovery Partnership with aged, cleaned oyster shells. The resulting shells with the newly created oyster spat (spat on shell) are loaded by ORP onto vessels for deployment and then planted.

At the current market rate of $.01 per spat, a contribution of $20K will purchase approximately 2 million spat on shell.

Source: Charles County Government

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