DNR Invites Marylanders To Join Oyster Growing Program

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DNR Invites Marylanders To Join Oyster Growing Program

3/28/2012

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The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking for communities to help raise baby oysters for the 2012 season through the Marylanders Grow Oysters program. Now in its fifth year, the program is bigger and better than ever thanks to enthusiastic citizens who have helped establish and expand this effort.

“I would like to personally thank all of our citizens, students and community partners who have made this program so successful,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “We encourage other communities interested in helping restore the Chesapeake Bay to become growers this season, and raise young oysters during their vulnerable first year of life.”

Last year, citizen volunteers raised more than 2 million new oysters that were planted in sanctuaries throughout Maryland waters. DNR is currently seeking volunteers to keep the momentum going into 2012. The Department is in search of local coordinators willing to organize the program, in additional rivers, creeks and Bay areas. The oysters require minimal care - mostly the rinsing of the cages every two weeks. DNR will provide all of the materials and assist coordinators with planning and implementation.

“This program thrives on the energy of volunteer coordinators who organize the growers and the logistics of cage distribution and oyster collection,” said program coordinator Chris Judy.

Citizen oyster growers enjoy the personal rewards of stewardship and learn about oysters while contributing to the enhancement of an oyster reef. The year-old oysters are collected and planted in a local oyster sanctuary, and a new group of young oysters is distributed to participating growers to start the process again.

Governor Martin O’Malley launched Marylanders Grow Oysters in 2008 as part of the State’s Smart Green and Growing initiative. The program began with about 900 oyster cages, cared for by 170 growers, along the Tred Avon River. DNR has expanded the program with the help of partners and now about 8,000 cages - exceeding the initial goal of 7,000 - are located in 24 tributaries from the St. Mary’s River to Swan Creek near Rock Hall.

The program is managed by DNR in conjunction with the Oyster Recovery Partnership, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science which produces the majority of the spat (baby oysters), and the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

In February, Governor Martin O’Malley announced another landmark in the State’s ongoing efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay’s native oyster population. Results of Maryland’s 2011 Fall Oyster Survey show the highest survival rate for oysters since 1985. The 92 percent survival rate — the percentage of oysters found alive in a sample — builds upon last year’s strong spatset (number of baby oysters), which was the highest since 1997.

To learn more about Marylanders Grow Oysters go to oysters.maryland.gov, or contact Chris Judy at cjudy@dnr.state.md.us. To take part in program, visit oysters.maryland.gov/pdfs/Oyster_App_Doc.pdf for an application. Applications are due April 30, 2012.



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