By now most Americans have heard about the devastated oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay. Since the beginning of the 20th century, oyster beds throughout the Bay steadily declined thanks to advances in canning techniques and harvesting technologies. But one organization is fighting back with a vengeance...the Chesapeake Bay Foundation(CBF)...restoring oyster beds throughout the Chesapeake.
Restoring an oyster bed begins about a year before the oysters are actually dropped in the water. Used oyster shells are collected(PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't throw out your used oyster shells...they CAN be recycled), washed and placed in bins that are constantly flushed with bay water. Free-swimming oyster larvae(Spat) are collected and deposited on the recycled shells. Baby oysters are grown under piers by volunteers who watch over the youngsters.
While those young oysters are growing, the new reef is created using concrete chunks from old highways, cinderblocks, etc...anything that can create a hard base that keeps the oysters from being covered by silt.
After a year, the oysters are then dropped overboard by volunteer boats into the new reefs. Year old oysters have thicker shells that are able to withstand predators such as the venerable blue crab.
Oyster beds created and guarded by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation have great growth and survival rates. And the numbers keep growing...in 2009 Maryland alone has generated over 750 Million Spat for oyster reefs. This growth is amazing considering just a decade ago that number was less than 10 Million for all Chesapeake States combined.
The oyster population in the Bay is not where it needs to be at all...but with the efforts of the CBF....the population has a chance...a fighting chance.