More people in Portsmouth will be able to raise oysters for restoration work this year as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) expands its oyster gardening program. For the first time in more than a decade, CBF is offering an oyster gardening workshop in Portsmouth. The July 22 event is possible thanks to generous funding from the Beazley Foundation. To help people who do not live on the water grow oysters, CBF is also looking for marinas, businesses, or organizations in Portsmouth with waterfront access interested in hosting a public oyster gardening location.
“Portsmouth has a culture and history deeply rooted in the waters that surround it. Yet Portsmouth residents only represent a small fraction of CBF’s Virginia oyster gardeners,” said Peyton Mowery, CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Outreach Coordinator. “As we increase our focus there, I’m really looking forward to hearing from people in Portsmouth who want to help bring back the local oyster population.”
CBF’s Virginia oyster gardening program provides everything needed for volunteers to grow oysters for eventual planting on sanctuary oyster reefs. Over the course of a year, volunteers raise oysters in cages hung from docks. These oysters filter water, provide habitat for fish and crabs, and often spawn and increase nearby oyster populations. After a year, gardeners return the oysters they have raised at a CBF oyster roundup. CBF places the fully grown oysters on a restored oyster reef protected from harvest.
This program also supports the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance (COA), a broad coalition of 70 partner organizations presently working to add 10 billion new oysters to the Bay by 2025. Chesapeake Bay Foundation is the founding partner of COA.
About 11 Portsmouth families participated in CBF’s oyster gardening program last year out of a total of approximately 444 individuals and 182 families across Virginia. Most oyster gardeners take part from other locations in southside Hampton Roads, as well as the Peninsula, the Eastern Shore, the Northern Neck and the Middle Peninsula. The expansion of oyster gardening in Portsmouth will complement long running efforts to restore the Elizabeth River by CBF, the Elizabeth River Project, and other partners.
CBF will hold the new Portsmouth oyster gardening event on Thursday, July 22, at I.C. Norcom High School, 1801 London Blvd. To register and for information on the other oyster gardening events across Virginia, visit cbf.org/vaoystergardening. Waterfront property owners and businesses interested in hosting a public location can e-mail [email protected].