QUEENSTOWN - Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Tom Leigh, in partnership with Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has created a new oyster reef within the Wye River Sanctuary.
The designated reef for oysters grown as part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program is located in the lower portion of the river on a historically productive bar.
Oysters grown by participants within the Wye River complex will be placed on this reef and are prohibited from harvest.
Thirty dock owners in the Wye River are growing oyster spat in floats and cages. At the end of the growing season, nearly 50,000 oysters are delivered to the oyster reef.
Each year, these oysters have the ability to filter over nine billion gallons of water. In addition, this reef will support a complex ecosystem of marine life including fish, crabs, worms and shrimp.
At one time, oysters were so abundant in the Chesapeake Bay their reefs defined the major river channels. Now, because of decades of over harvest, disease, poor water quality and loss of hard bottom habitat, the oyster population in the Bay is less than one percent of what it once was.
"Imagine a river replete with millions of floating spat, eager young oysters establishing a permanent home, and reefs of three-inchers serving has bio-filters for clean water and a home to fish and crabs," said Tim Junkin, director of the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy. "Just one oyster can filter 50 gallons of water each day. Imagine what an acre of thriving oyster reef could do."
Midshore Riverkeepers will build and deliver oyster floats to participant's docks.
The floats contain nearly 500 dime-sized spat, which are oysters less than one year old.
Each float costs $250, but Maryland provides a dollar for dollar income tax credit of up to $500 per person for floats so the total cost for up to two floats per person in rebated at tax time.
Oysters grown in floats, unlike in the MGO program, belong to the homeowner.
Once mature, the oysters can be consumed or by request to the Midshore Riverkeepers, moved to the sanctuary reef.
Marylanders Grow Oysters Program is a cooperative effort between Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Midshore Riverkeepers, the Oyster Recovery Partnership, other non government organizations, and private dock owners.
Anyone interested in participating or for more information, contact Tom Leigh at tommidshoreriverkeeper.org or call 443-385-0511.
Tom Leigh plants oysters in the Wye River.