The Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science produced a record number of oysters in 2012 as part of its efforts for the restoration of Chesapeake Bay. In partnership with the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Horn Point Hatchery produced more than 880 million oyster spat (young oysters that are attached to a larger oyster shell) this year. This is the fifth year in a row that production has exceeded half a billion.
"Our record oyster production is due to the dedication and hard work of Don Meritt and his hatchery crew and the wise investments of the State of Maryland and our federal sponsors," said Horn Point Laboratory Director Mike Roman at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "Our hatchery efforts are important for the restoration of oysters in Chesapeake Bay and the development of the oyster aquaculture industry in Maryland."
The largest oyster hatchery on the East Coast, the Horn Point Lab Oyster Hatchery located along the Choptank River in Cambridge, Maryland, produces a variety of disease-free oyster larvae for use in oyster research, oyster restoration, educational projects, and the private aquaculture industry. Over the past decade, spawning oysters at the hatchery have resulted in the deployment of more than four and a half billion oyster spat to the waters of the Chesapeake Bay to aid in restoring the health of the Bay.
“Our record production is a direct result of the dedication and commitment of both the hatchery team and the Oyster Recovery Partnership field crew," said Hatchery Program Director Don "Mutt" Meritt. "This combined with the state-of-the-art facilities located at the Horn Point Laboratory and the beneficial water quality during the production season each contributed to a bumper crop this year.”
About 460 million oyster spat were deployed to recently established sanctuaries, with most of those going to the Harris Creek oyster sanctuary. Over 100 million oysters were planted in the upper Bay to restore oysters killed by the high river discharges of 2011.
Roughly 200 million oysters were produced as part of waterman training project where the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, University of Maryland Extension, Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are working with Maryland watermen to produce their own oysters for aquaculture.
Oyster spat were also produced for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's oyster gardening program, MDNR's Marylander's Grow oysters and for private oyster farmers.
The Chesapeake Bay oyster industry was the envy of the world until the oyster stock collapsed due to disease, habitat loss, declining water quality and historic over-harvesting. Oysters are a "keystone" species in the Chesapeake Bay. They not only filter and clean the water, but they also provide habitat for other important marine life such as blue crabs and striped bass. Oyster reefs are one of the most endangered habitats on the planet and critical to Chesapeake Bay recovery.