A Race to Restore the Bay's Oyster Population

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Photos by Johnny Haworth/CBF Staff (above and below right)

I had always dreamed of the glory of winning a medal in the Olympic Games. Until last Friday, I never thought I would taste the sweet splendor of the gold, but I did. Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) interns won the gold medal at the first annual Oyster Olympic Games! It was a tough competition at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center (ORC) in Shady Side, Maryland. It seemed we had met our match, competing against interns from all over the watershed. CBF summer interns, students from the University of Maryland, Restoring America's Estuaries (RAE) interns, and interns from the Chesapeake Conservation Corps put up a tough competition in five oyster-related events.

 

Olympics_2011 031 First was shell shaking. We shoveled empty oyster shells into a sifter to shake the sediment and debris off, and then dumped the shells into a large crate. Next, we sprinted to the reef ball mold-making event. This event required accuracy and precision when puzzling together the molds. It was then a mad dash to oyster garden cage building, where each team bended and shaped wire into cages for oyster gardening. We were finally able to catch our breath, and break a mental sweat instead, during the spat counting event. Each team had to accurately count the number of spat (oyster larvae) on 30 or so oyster shells, and then calculate the average on each shell. The final race was an exciting, close match as the teams canoed around the Oyster Restoration Center. In the end, CBF Team 1 took the gold, the Chesapeake Conservation Corps interns won the silver, and University of Maryland students got the bronze.

 

After an exciting and tiring morning, we took the afternoon to learn of the importance that each event carried in the effort to restore the Bay's oyster population. As Dan Johannes, CBFer and founder of The Oyster Olympics, says, "The events I selected for the Oyster Olympics are part of our weekly projects that we depend on volunteers to do. All of the hard work from shell shaking five cages and bending the wire to make nineteen oyster garden cages was an added bonus for ORC."� Touring the ORC put the magnitude of restoring the Bay's oyster population in perspective, for me. These little critters are essential to filtering the Bay and restoring it back to the clean, healthy water it once was. Participating in the Oyster Olympics left me with more than a gold medal. It also left me with a desire--and a pledge--to restore the oyster population, and to reach CBF's goal to Save the Bay.

--Maggie Rees

Editor's Note: With the current oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay at two percent of its historical number, it is essential that we help to restore these vital creatures which help purify and clean Bay waters. To learn more about oyster restoration, the ORC, or to get involved, please visit: http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1063. DSC_2153
CBF interns Maggie Rees and Johnny Haworth show off their gold-colored oysters after being the ultimate winners of CBF's annual Oyster Olympics. Photo by Alice Christman/CBF Staff

Emmy Nicklin

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