Queenstown helping grow oysters
QUEENSTOWN — Mark Mayberry of Queenstown has a good reason to enhance and protect the population of oysters in the Chester River. He likes to eat oysters.
Mayberry volunteered for the first time with a multiagency program to aid the oyster population on Thursday, Sept. 23, when he and several other people put oysters shells — with baby oysters called spat attached to them — into cages, which were then hung off and tied to docks along the Chester River in Queenstown.
“I enjoy consuming oysters. Therefore, I’m here contributing my time,” Mayberry said.
On that day, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, volunteer oyster growers and the Chester River Association placed 66 cages filled with spat on shells in the Chester River in Queenstown.
Later in the day, the Partnership joined the Chester River Association and local students in Chestertown where they placed 96 more cages in the Chester River.
Robert Jackson of Severna Park, a senior in high school, also participated in hanging the caged oyster shells in the water at the Queenstown dock. He’s an intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The 18-year-old said deploying the caged oyster shells is fun to do, but there’s another reason. “I’m a high schooler and coming out here and doing this stuff beats class,” he said.
The cages were tied to docks and hung just above the river’s bottom so they aren’t sitting in mud, but they aren’t hung too high where they are exposed, said Paul Spies of Cordova, from the Chester River Association.
“We are helping to restore the oyster population in the Chester [River],” said David Sutherland of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The ecological value is fantastic, from restored oyster reefs, providing ecological benefits, as well as it helps out the watermen when they are commercial fishing and they actually got some viable oysters to market.”
Karis King, Oyster Recovery Partnership events manager, also described the group’s efforts. “We are deploying these cages, filled with spat, on oyster shells so they have a chance to grow and mature while remaining protected in the cages. We will plant them in the oyster sanctuary of the Chester River,” she said.
The Marylanders Grow Oysters program, now in its ninth season, is a partnership between ORP, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, and local organizations.
Inmates from the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections produce the cages for the program.
Through the program, the Partnership provides community groups and residents with cages filled with spat on shells. The communities hang these cages from their piers and periodically shake and rinse them to ensure the oysters remain clean and healthy.
The cages also protect the baby oysters during their vulnerable first year of life so that they can mature and have better chance of survival in the wild. When they are a year old, they are collected and planted on oyster reefs in the spring, where they serve as critical underwater habitat and work to enhance water quality.
Overall the oyster growers will place more than 7,000 cages in more than 30 tributaries throughout Maryland in 2016.
More than 1,500 waterfront property owners are growing millions of young oysters in cages suspended from private piers, according to the Department of Natural Resources website.
There is no charge to participates. By fostering the young oysters, residents also generate an abundance of fish and other aquatic life, according to DNR.
During this summer, over two million oysters will be planted in sanctuary areas by the growers in the Marylanders Grow Oysters program. There are more than 5,000 people involved to grow oysters to enhance the ecology of the planted sites. The Marylanders Grow Oysters began in 2008 in the Tred Avon River.
Robert Jackson of Severna Park is putting cages of oyster shells with spat attached into the Chester River in Queenstown as part of an effort by many groups to populate oysters. Jackson is an intern with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Paul Spies of Cordova loads oyster shells with spat (baby oysters) attached to them into cages as part of a larger effort to grow the oyster population. The cages were later tied to a pier and lowered into the Chester River.