Aside from being yummy, oysters clean the water through a process called filter feeding. A single adult oyster can filter an astounding 50 gallons of water per day, which keeps the bay clean for other species. Oysters, like coral reef, also provide food and shelter for a variety of other species.
Oysters can also foster an economically sound environment. Before the recent over harvesting of this food-source, oysters were a major player in the Chesapeake Bay shellfish industry. In order to make that true again, steps need to be taken today to reduce water pollution, manage harvests, and encourage oyster aquaculture for a true oyster renaissance.
In 2011, the town of Chesapeake Beach and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) group kick started a community-based program to provide a fun, eco-friendly, and collaborative project to benefit Chesapeake Beach. Their goal was to cultivate oysters in an effort to improve local water quality. During this process, the community gained knowledge and appreciation of the Bay ecosystem.
The Chesapeake Beach Oyster Cultivation Society (CBOCS) used models created by the Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society (SMOCS), MGO, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as a guide for the initiative. CBOCS relied on volunteers to grow oysters in cages in local waterways.The cages served to protect the baby oysters, also known as spat, from predators while their shells fully developed. This maturing process takes up to 10 months. The yearlings are then relocated, or planted, on local reefs in oyster sanctuaries so they could continue to grow and reproduce. The goal is to sustain the wild oyster population and help return balance to the Bay’s ecosystem.
Beach Elementary School was an active partner in project. Teachers are incorporating all aspects of oyster restoration into their environmental curriculum for fifth graders. Some other local business that helped support the Buoyant Oyster Cultivation Devices include – American Legion Post #206, Celebrate! LLC, Richfield Station Homeowners Association, Rod-N-Reel Restaurant, The Bay Business Group, Chesapeake Beach Garden Club, and the Chesapeake Station Homeowners Association.
CBOCS also secured a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust for the purchase of four BOCSes.
The shelter display can be found at the beginning of the trail behind the Chesapeake Beach Water Park. Information is available about the process and observers can view the actual oyster reef. This is truly a lovely addition to the area.
If you would like more information about the oyster gardening and restoration, please visit – Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society, DNR’s Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO), Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), CBOCS