Queen­stown help­ing grow oys­ters

Record Observer - - Front Page - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY ck­ersey@ches­pub.com Learn more about the pro­gram by vis­it­ing the web­site http://dnr.mary­land.gov/ fish­eries/pages/MGO/in­dex.aspx.

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.

PHO­TOS BY CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

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.

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