If you live near salt water, there's a fun, simple, and rewarding way you can help restore the Chesapeake Bay: Become a CBF oyster gardener!
Oyster gardeners are citizen volunteers who raise baby oysters in small floats attached to private piers, docks, marina slips, or anywhere with access to salty water. At the end of a year, gardeners return their "crop" of mature oysters to CBF and help place them on protected reefs in nearby rivers and creeks. There, the oysters reproduce, provide homes and food for other Bay creatures, and help filter algae and sediment from Bay waters.
One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day simply by "eating" what's floating in the water around them. Scientists estimate there were once enough oysters in the Bay to filter the entire quantity of water in the Bay in two or three days. Decimated over the years by overharvesting, disease, and pollution, the Bay's oyster population today is only about 1-2 percent of its historic abundance.
By raising oysters to put back into the Bay, oyster gardeners are helping restore one of the Bay's keystone species and improving the Bay's natural resiliency. CBF has more than 300 oyster gardening families across Virginia now raising oysters for restoration. Since 1996, CBF and its partners and volunteers have grown or transplanted nearly 6 million oysters and helped build or restock more than 20 oyster reefs.
"Growing your own oysters is one of the most enjoyable, fascinating ways you can contribute to the recovery of the Chesapeake Bay," said Tanner Council, CBF's Hampton Roads Grassroots Coordinator. "As prolific filterers of Bay waters, oysters are an important player in restoring our waterways. And people of all ages, especially kids, find great enjoyment nurturing these amazing creatures from baby spat to mature oysters."
Starting today, CBF is hosting oyster gardening workshops in several Virginia locations, including Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Gloucester Point, Kinsale, Deltaville, and Wachapreague, to train new gardeners and provide them each with 1,000 baby seed oysters. Veteran gardeners will also be returning their year-old oysters to the workshops for placing on nearby reefs.
If you'd like to become a CBF oyster gardener, check out the workshop schedule here and register for one near you. Advanced registration for the workshops is required. A $30 donation covers the cost of oyster seed (other materials must be purchased) and includes membership in CBF. Questions? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 757/622-1964.
--Chuck Epes, CBF's Deputy Director of Media Relations