Raising Oysters for a Healthy Harbor in Baltimore

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Raising Oysters for a Healthy Harbor in Baltimore

T. Rowe Price associates raised more than 12,000 oysters

T. Rowe Price oyster gardeners celebrate a successful season during the oyster release.

Oyster gardeners celebrate success.

T. Rowe Price volunteers raised more than 12,000 oyster spat, shown here growing attached to old oyster shells.

Oyster gardeners released their young oysters at a sanctuary near Fort Carroll in the Patapsco River.

Oyster gardeners ready their spat to be transported to their new home.

Oysters being transported to their new home at a sanctuary near Fort Carroll in the Patapsco River.

The Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership raises oysters to educate residents about water quality issues and get them involved in helping to improve the water quality of Baltimore’s harbor.

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About a dozen T. Rowe Price associates have been carefully tending 20 cages filled with baby oysters—called “spat”—for the past nine months, working through the winter to ensure that they received enough food and oxygen to grow into healthy young oysters that could be released into the Patapsco River.

This is the third year T. Rowe Price “oyster gardeners” have raised spat for the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership, a program of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and local businesses and residents. The Oyster Partnership grows oysters to generate awareness of Chesapeake Bay conservation efforts and involve residents in a hands-on project to improve the Bay ecosystem.

On May 24, they joined volunteers from BGE/Constellation Energy on a boat trip with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, during which the two teams released nearly 24,000 young oysters at a sanctuary near Fort Carroll in the Patapsco River.

The volunteers’ baby oysters grew in cages hanging off a pier near the National Aquarium in Baltimore, submersed just far enough to avoid the cold but stay within reach of the oxygenated water close to the surface. Last October, volunteers filled the cages with oyster shells that contained the spat and then cleaned the cages monthly, removing algae and sediment to ensure that the spat were receiving enough food and oxygen. T. Rowe Price has also donated $15,000 to the Waterfront Partnership specifically to support the Oyster Partnership and the volunteer efforts of its associates.  

Raising oysters in the Inner Harbor is an exercise in optimism. One fully grown oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day, making oysters the perfect water-cleaning tool. At their peak population in the late 19th century, there were enough oysters to filter the entire Chesapeake Bay in three days—now it takes a year. But while a recent water quality report card gave the Inner Harbor a disappointing F, the Healthy Harbor Initiative still has a goal to make the water in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020, and growing thousands of oysters in the inner harbor could help.

At an event celebrating the end of this season’s oyster gardening, Terry Cummings, director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Baltimore Initiative, told the volunteers that the program is gaining steam. A total of 170 oyster gardeners tended 215 cages in locations from the Inner Harbor to Marshy Point Nature Center this year. Together they raised over 111,000 oysters—a 79% increase over last year.

“Scientists didn’t think we could raise oysters in the harbor,” said Terry, “but we’ve shown that oysters can survive and grow in the Inner Harbor with a little help from their friends.”

CATEGORY: Environment