Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Good News from the Oysters

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources says oysters are surviving at the highest rate since 1985.

The department says results of its fall oyster survey show 92 percent of oysters were found alive in samples taken baywide. The two-month survey sampled 263 oyster bars throughout the bay.

While heavy rains last year caused high mortality in some areas, the department says lower salt levels throughout the bay helped cut diseases that have devastated oyster populations. DNR says the high survival rate also comes on the heels of a strong spatset, or crop of baby oysters, which was the largest last year since 1997.

Maryland is emphasizing oyster aquaculture and sanctuaries to restore its oyster population, which is at less than 1 percent of historic levels.
This is indeed good news, but I have this word of caution.  Since it immediately followed a devastating oyster die off  in the upper caused by the intense flooding from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, the high survival of the remaining oysters may be an artifact.  By eliminating many oysters in less favorable, low salt habitats, the floods may have "pre-killed" a large number of the oysters in advance of the study, leaving an artificially high survival rate for those remaining.   It's easy to take good news on its face, but you need to look at some of the underlying causes as well

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