Large-scale ef­fort sets goal of 10 bil­lion new oys­ters by 2025

Kent County News - - NEWS - By DANIEL DIVILIO ddivilio@thekent­coun­tynews.com

CHESTERTOWN — In less than 10 years, a part­ner­ship of or­ga­ni­za­tions, busi­nesses and col­leges from Mary­land and Vir­ginia hopes to add 10 bil­lion oys­ters to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity and help­ing the lo­cal econ­omy. Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, the 10 bil­lion oys­ters will come from a com­bi­na­tion of ex­panded restora­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, fish­ery re­ple­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and the con­tin­ued growth of the Bay’s oys­ter aqua­cul­ture in­dus­try. “Oys­ters are so much more than the tasty bi­valves that many know them to be,” said John Ra­canelli, CEO of the Na­tional Aquar­ium in Bal­ti­more, a part­ner on the project. “They help keep our wa­ter­ways clean by re­mov­ing harm­ful pol­lu­tants and they pro­vide a hos­pitable place for other an­i­mals to live — from the back­wa­ters of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay to the vast At­lantic Ocean.” Wash­ing­ton Col­lege an­nounced its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Ch­e­sa­peake 10 Bil­lion Oys­ters Part­ner­ship, stat­ing in a news re­lease that the col­lab­o­ra­tion hopes to fully re­store the key­stone species. As fil­ter feed­ers, oys­ters are his­tor­i­cally vi­tal to im­prov­ing the Bay’s wa­ter qual­ity, as well as pro­vid­ing the foun­da­tion for a sus­tain­able fish­ery, the col­lege re­lease states. “This kind of am­bi­tious yet achiev­able goal is pre­cisely what is needed in so many of our en­vi­ron­men­tal restora­tion ef­forts,” said John Sei­del, di­rec­tor of Wash­ing­ton Col­lege’s Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­ment & So­ci­ety. “To re­al­ize such a lofty ob­jec­tive, to have real im­pact, we need an all­hands-on-deck ap­proach. We at Wash­ing­ton Col­lege will do ev­ery­thing we can to help meet the part­ner­ship’s goal, us­ing the power of bi­valves to fil­ter the Bay’s wa­ters.” The part­ner­ship has es­tab­lished as its top three pri­or­i­ties: en­sur­ing ro­bust fund­ing for oys­ter restora­tion, es­tab­lish­ing sound science-based man­age­ment that en­sures sus­tain­able har­vest of the Bay’s oys­ter pop­u­la­tion and ex­pand­ing the oys­ter aqua­cul­ture in­dus­tries in Mary­land and Vir­ginia. “Sci­en­tists have been do­ing re­search on oys­ters in the Ch­e­sa­peake for al­most 150 years. The ev­i­dence con­tin­ues to grow about the im­por­tance of abun­dant oys­ter pop­u­la­tions for wa­ter qual­ity, bi­o­log­i­cal pro­duc­tiv­ity and di­ver­sity, shore­line in­tegrity and the re­silience of this great ecosys­tem,” said Don Boesch, Univer­sity of Mary­land Cen­ter for En­vi­ron­men­tal Science pro­fes­sor and pres­i­dent emer­i­tus. Boesch touted the suc­cess over the last five years of oys­ter reef restora­tion ef­forts. “This ef­fort is a way to bring all stake­hold­ers to­gether in­clud­ing com­mer­cial fish­er­man, aqua­cul­tur­ist, and restora­tion groups to fo­cus on sim­ply putting more oys­ters in the wa­ter — in sanc­tu­ar­ies and in the pub­lic fish­ery. Once the oys­ters are in the wa­ter, we all ben­e­fit,” said ShoreRivers’ Chop­tank River­keeper Matt Pluta in a Face­book post. The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion re­lease states that oys­ter aqua­cul­ture pro­vides many of the same en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits as wild oys­ters, while the in­dus­try’s growth will cre­ate jobs and ben­e­fit the economies of coastal com­mu­ni­ties. Scott Bud­den of Kent County-based Or­chard Point Oys­ter Co. was ap­proached by the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion to par­tic­i­pate in the project. He said in an email that the ef­fort is sim­i­lar to many other smaller projects in coastal com­mu­ni­ties through­out the coun­try. Bud­den said the cost­ef­fec­tive­ness of oys­ters to im­prove wa­ter qual­ity is well known so the project is com­mon sense. He said it also is a great op­por­tu­nity for stake­hold­ers to col­lab­o­rate and co­or­di­nate ef­forts. “As oys­ter farm­ers, our tremen­dous shell gen­er­a­tion will lit­er­ally help pave the way for this project to suc­ceed. We’re very ex­cited to be a small part of this gar­gan­tuan ef­fort, that will only help the Bay and its trib­u­taries,” Bud­den said. The Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram man­dates 10 re­stored trib­u­taries by 2025. The Wash­ing­ton Col­lege re­lease states that the 10-bil­lion oys­ters part­ner­ship aims to push far­ther the al­ready large-scale ef­fort to im­prove the health of the Bay and its trib­u­taries. “By gen­er­at­ing new part­ner­ships and spark­ing in­no­va­tion, we hope this coali­tion will ac­cel­er­ate ef­forts that al­ready show tremen­dous prom­ise for the Bay’s oys­ter pop­u­la­tions,” said Al­li­son Colden, Mary­land fish­eries sci­en­tist at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion, which is help­ing to co­or­di­nate the part­ner­ship. The mes­sage from Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent Will Baker boiled it all down. “We will never achieve a re­stored and healthy Bay un­til we re­store the Bay’s oys­ters,” Baker said. “This part­ner­ship will help make that hap­pen.” For more in­for­ma­tion about the Ch­e­sa­peake 10 Bil­lion Oys­ters Part­ner­ship, go to TenBil­lionOys­ters.org.

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