Oyster Floats for the Bay

Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population was once so plentiful that it filtered the Bay’s entire volume of water in just three days?  Early English settlers wrote that the oyster reefs were so large and high that they posed navigational hazards for their ships. 

Imagine the Chesapeake Bay back then – it was once one of the world’s most productive bodies of water in terms of marine life.  Now it’s practically gone.  Decimated by pollution, over-harvesting, and a deadly duo of diseases in the mid-20th century, today’s oyster population is only 1% of its historical population.  The Bay’s floor once hosted giant colonies of oysters that were centers of aquatic life, places where crabs, fish, and mussels came together, much like how the Caribbean coral reefs teem with life.  Sadly, today’s Bay floor is a desert of green mud.

unloading the floats from the truck

Oysters are a keystone species in the marine ecosystem because they eat by filtering and cleaning the water.  Cleaner water provides better habitat for blue crabs, fish, and other marine life.  Our farm sits on St. Clements Bay, part of the Chesapeake Bay system. Besides sea nettles (jellyfish), we’ve noticed very little life.  We’d love to see hundreds of blue crabs (yum)!

We’re using oyster floats to help clean the water around our pier and to attract more life.  We bought two floats from Circle C Oyster Ranch, and plan to buy two every year and take advantage of Maryland’s tax credit.  The baby oysters are about an inch in diameter at this point.  They are native oysters, and were selectively bred to be disease-resistant.  After about two years, they’ll be over four inches long and ready to eat (yum).  The oysters sit in mesh bags, and the mesh bags float inside a pvc pipe perimeter.  By floating just under the water’s surface, they live where the food (algae) and the oxygen lives.  This coddled environment helps them to grow a little faster.    

oyster float tied to our pier

Knowing the Bay’s water is polluted, I’m a little wary about eating these oysters, but not enough to stop me.  Oysters are very nutritious – chock full of Vitamin D, B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper, and more.  I’m hoping that the jumbo nutritional boost will help my body get rid of any bad stuff.  Besides, have you ever had a fried oyster?  Heaven on earth!


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