Posts Tagged 'oyster recovery'

A Blue View: Bringing Oysters Back from the Brink

A Blue View is a weekly perspective on the life aquatic, hosted by National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli.

From the smallest plants and animals invisible to the human eye to entire ecosystems, every living thing depends on and is intricately linked by water.

Tune in to 88.1 WYPR every Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. as John brings to the surface important issues and fascinating discoveries making waves in the world today.

August 21, 2013: Bringing Oysters Back from the Brink

A Blue View podcastClick here to listen to John discuss the critical role
oyster reefs play in maintaining a healthy
Chesapeake Bay! 

Oysters are a huge part of the Chesapeake Bay culture—its past, present, and future. Even the name “Chesapeake” means “great shellfish bay” in Algonquin. Yet since the early part of the 1900s, oyster populations have been in crisis.

The health of oyster populations in the Bay is critical to providing habitat for aquatic animals, supporting feeding grounds for migratory birds, and enhancing water quality as oysters filter their food from the water. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day. To put this in perspective, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration points out that oysters once were able to filter the entire Chesapeake Bay in a week. Today, it takes a year.

Researchers are beginning to understand the importance of oyster reefs in protecting coastal areas. Along with coral reefs, wetlands, dunes, and other coastal habitats, oyster reefs actually help prevent erosion, reduce the impact of storm surges, and protect against sea level rise. In fact, part of New York City’s $19-billion-dollar plan to combat the effects of climate change includes building large underwater oyster reefs around the harbor.

Over time, oyster populations have been devastated by overfishing, disease, pollution, habitat destruction, and urban runoff. NOAA reports that the oyster population of the Chesapeake today is less than 1 percent of its historical level. In fact, oyster harvesting peaked in the 1880s, when 20 million bushels were harvested in a single year. In 2012, only 135,000 bushels were harvested from the Bay…less than one percent of those historic levels.

Still, all hope is not lost, and efforts are underway to solve the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster problem. These include an ambitious plan to restore oyster populations throughout the area by spreading hundreds of thousands of tons of granite and old oyster shells along Harris Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River. Shells seeded with baby oysters are then placed on this substrate using a high-pressure hose. Then, nature is left to do its work. Watch this video to learn more about the project:


The Chesapeake Bay region isn’t the only one looking to improve the prospects for oysters. In New Jersey, for example, an advocacy group called ReClam the Bay is caring for seven oyster nurseries in the hopes of helping populations in Barnegat Bay to recover. Protected nurseries allow the oysters to grow without the risk of predators dining on them. Visitors are welcome to come by these nurseries and get their hands wet in what ReClam the Bay hopes will be an educational opportunity that will encourage people to make better choices for the health of the shellfish populations and the bay.

Out on the West Coast, efforts to save Oregon’s only native oyster species, the Olympia, have proven largely successful. Though previously declared “functionally extinct,” after 8 years of work by the Nature Conservancy and watermen, the 1.5 million oysters now inhabiting Netarts Bay seem to be reproducing successfully.

In Maryland, a “No Shell Left Behind” oyster recycling tax credit of one dollar a bushel became official on July 1. Its aim is to encourage the recycling of valuable oyster shells to help restore oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay. Empty shells, which are necessary for hatcheries to replenish the oyster population, are extremely valuable, as each shell can host up to 10 young oysters, known as “spat.”

You can play a part in this, too! Whether by recycling oyster shells, participating in Chesapeake Bay conservation events, or even running in next year’s “Sprint for Spat” 5K race, sponsored by the Oyster Recovery Partnership, get involved! A healthy oyster population helps us all.



Thoughtful Thursdays: Save the Bay!

Oysters play a critical role in the ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. As natural water filters, oysters strain out plankton and other food suspended in water. They also provide a critical habitat and growing surface for a large number of other species, including fish like striped blennies, anked gobies, and skillet fish, as well as mud crabs, blue crabs, grass shrimp, and eels.

We were incredibly honored to host the “Mermaid’s Kiss Oyster Fest” benefiting the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) last night at our Baltimore venue.

During last night’s event, ORP announced its largest restoration effort on the East Coast ever. This new project will streamline large-scale efforts to improve the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay through oyster planting and water quality improvement.

Chef Karen Nicolas preparing her delicious tasting dish at last night’s Oyster Fest!

There are many ways you can help support oyster recovery: 

  • Become an oyster gardener
  • Buy local: enjoy Chesapeake Bay farmed or harvested oysters
  • Patronize restaurants that are participating in the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s Shell Recycling Alliance—making sure used oyster shells go back to support restoration efforts
  • Celebrate Maryland seafood by dining out at any of the restaurants participating in the From the Bay, For the Bay event the week of October 6–13, 2012. Participating restaurants will be serving fresh, locally caught Maryland seafood and will donate a dollar for every Maryland seafood dinner sold to the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a nonprofit organization that works to replenish the population of our native Chesapeake Bay oyster.
  • Join our Aquarium Conservation Team (ACT!) and REI staff in our bi-annual field days at the Ft. McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. In the Fall and Spring, our team, along with an amazing group of volunteers, helps to  restore habitat,  remove debris, do trail maintenance  and plant native flowers! Since we first took ownership of this stewardship in 1999, our teams have removed more than 600,000 pieces of debris!

Thanks again to everyone who came out last night in support of our local habitats! We are one step closer to a thriving Bay!

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