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