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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs