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Chesapeake Bay oysters. (Photo: Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

New coalition aims to add 10 billion oysters to the Chesapeake Bay

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018, 01:40 (GMT + 9)

A new coalition made up of more than 20 environmental groups, economic interests and educational foundations has set a goal of getting 10 billion oysters in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. What they seek is to improve the water quality of the bay and the creation of jobs that help the local economy.

The promoters of this initiative raise baby oysters in laboratories, then attach them to recycled oyster shells and place them on the reefs of the bay. In this way, they have already planted 2,000 million seeds per year.

Not all baby oysters survive to become adult oysters, but the technology to increase their survival is advancing.

"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.

"Oyster reef restoration efforts over the past five years have been very successful in producing dense populations that are surviving, reproducing and adding greatly to the supply of oyster larvae in the Bay," he added.

The coalition stresses that oyster farming provides many of the same environmental benefits as wild oysters, which include filtering algae and sediments as they develop to market size. In addition, the growth of aquaculture will contribute to create jobs and provide economic benefits to coastal communities.

Will Baker, head of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, one of the groups that make up the Chesapeake 10 Billion Oysters Partnership, argues that oysters are a key species and are vital to the health of the bay, but there is intense pressure on programs that depend on federal funding.

“The resources needed to maintain our current efforts are in short supply. We must make the case to Congress that this funding is critical,” he said.

For Baker, the coalition's goal is ambitious, but achievable. It qualifies it as a "triple bottom line," since it could provide "clean water, more jobs and a stronger regional economy."
        
On his part, John Racanelli, CEO of the National Aquarium, said oysters are not only great filters for the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, but they serve as a sort of coral reef, providing habitat for other bay creatures.

On Johnny Shockley´opinion, the founding partner of Hoopers Island Oyster Company in Dorchester County, “oyster farming is the new growth industry on the Chesapeake, and this partnership supports its long-term viability."


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