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

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs