Shellfish aquaculture—the process of cultivating oysters, clams, mussels or other shellfish for food—is a rapidly growing industry in Maryland, with production increasing 24 percent annually, on average. By cultivating the Chesapeake Bay's native oyster, Crassostrea virginica, oyster farmers help recover some of the oyster’s critical functions in the Bay ecosystem.
According to a report, commissioned by CBF and conducted by Virginia Tech and Engle-Stone Aquatic$, the industry provides valuable economic benefits and employment opportunities to Maryland’s coastal communities. It also supports a diverse suite of economic sectors from real estate and wholesale trade to food service.
In 2018, Maryland’s aquaculture industry provided $8.1 million in economic benefits and more than 100 Maryland jobs for watermen and other jobs in the state's coastal areas.
While they grow, farmed oysters provide a number of important benefits to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem:
- Water Filtration—Each adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.
- Nutrient Reduction—Oysters remove and store nitrogen and phosphorus in their shells and tissue.
- Habitat Provision—Oysters and aquaculture gear can provide a home to many of the animals that otherwise live on oyster reefs.
- Low Carbon Footprint—Compared to other animal proteins like beef, oysters have a low carbon footprint.
How COVID-19 is Impacting Chesapeake Aquaculture
Oyster growers around the Chesapeake Bay have been among the many businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn from Rogue Oysters and Big Island Aquaculture about why it’s a particularly bad time of year for sales to stop and how to still get local oysters during this crisis. For a video from two local oyster farmers and resources and information on how to order local oysters, please visit our web page Support Local Oyster Businesses and Save the Bay.
The New Farm-to-Table Economy
Ever wonder how oysters make it from the farm to the restaurant? Check out our infographic.