News / USA

Citizen Growers Become Oyster Caretakers

Nurturing mollusks on backyard piers aids ecosystem recovery

The Oyster Recovery Partnership plants more than two billion hatchery oysters in state sanctuary waters.
The Oyster Recovery Partnership plants more than two billion hatchery oysters in state sanctuary waters.

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

In 2008, on a private pier on the Tred Avon River, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley kicked off an effort to get property owners along state rivers to become caretakers for oysters. The Marylanders Grow Oysters program began with 250 families and has expanded to 2,000 growers on 18 rivers.

Oysters were once plentiful here but no more. Generations of overfishing, a decline in water quality, disease and polluted urban and agricultural runoff have decimated its population.   

Recovery effort

Chris Judy, with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, oversees the program, which is part of a larger recovery effort for the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary. On this day, the shellfish biologist heads off the Tred Avon into Trippe Creek where Sally Ackridge tends 34 oyster cages on three piers. 

In the 1880s, Chesapeake Bay watermen hauled in 15 million bushels of oysters to meet national demand.
In the 1880s, Chesapeake Bay watermen hauled in 15 million bushels of oysters to meet national demand.

Before he loads her trove for the season he points out the tiny blister like pumps on each shell. These are the spat or baby oysters that over the next nine months will grow into clumps. "The cluster of oysters on the bottom [is] habitat to different types of fish and crab and worms," Judy says.   

Oysters are the foundation for a healthy ecosystem. They clean the water by eating algae and nutrients that pollute the Chesapeake Bay.

Ackridge says caring for this brood is fairly simple. "We just come out every week or two and shake the baskets."

That action removes sediment and aquatic vegetation and makes the hanging baskets easier to handle as the oysters grow. She adds the work is also a valuable lesson. "I think that we're going to show the next generation, our children and grandchildren that we need to be participants in nature."

Judy also brings new stock to Marilyn Engle, a marine scientist, who has been an oyster grower for three years. "I knew that oysters help water quality, and I've been happy about the program. I think that it's important that people become involved and as they do, it's an education. I love being here on the Eastern Shore, and I want to help take care of it!" 

Chris Judy with Sally Ackridge on her backyard pier where she cares for 38 cages of baby oysters.
Chris Judy with Sally Ackridge on her backyard pier where she cares for 38 cages of baby oysters.

Rehabilitating oyster bars

After the drop-offs, Judy motors to a marine sanctuary. Maryland has rehabilitated more than 500 hectares of once viable oyster bars.

This is where the home-grown oysters are planted, along with 2.5 billion oyster spat that come directly from the state oyster hatchery. While homeowners only grow a couple of million by comparison each year, a much higher percent of the nurtured oysters survive.

And, besides, Judy says his growers raise awareness among the public about the watershed. "The program is really about education,  outreach, motivation and enhancement. Sanctuaries are specifically enhanced with these oysters. They are improved.  The bottom is made better. There are more live oysters. The growers can be confident that they are making a difference in their local sanctuary."

Those tiny pimple like bumps on the shell mature into oyster clumps and are planted in a marine sanctuary to live out their lives undisturbed.
Those tiny pimple like bumps on the shell mature into oyster clumps and are planted in a marine sanctuary to live out their lives undisturbed.

Considering the size of the Chesapeake Bay which sprawls through six states and Washington, DC, Judy says, much more needs to be done.  The Marylanders Grow Oysters program is part of a larger coordinated recovery strategy, including research, monitoring and public programs Judy says the end game is the same to jump start Mother Nature.

"The sanctuary must serve as breeding site," he says. "That's the ultimate goal. What we hope to see is the oysters spawn and those larvae then settle somewhere and create new oysters through the natural process of reproduction."

Judy says Maryland oyster growers are making those steps toward natural recovery, one cage at a time.

You May Like

Video Obama Announces Plan to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obama details troop deployment and other pieces of US plan More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid