Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out!

If you want to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay and you're fond of oysters, there's a program you should know about.

Buy a special float used to grow oysters on the water, and you can get all your money back in Maryland in the form of a state tax credit.  If you own a home on the water you can place the float under your dock and the growing oysters will naturally filter the water, improving its quality. If you don't have waterfront property, no worries -- you can still become an oyster "rancher".

Buy a float for $250 from Circle C Oyster Ranch in Southern Maryland and they will raise the oysters for you at their place along St. Jerome Creek in St. Mary's County.

Another advantage to buying a float from Circle C: You own the oysters. You can donate them to an oyster sanctuary, or eventually eat them.
Several of my friend have these floating oyster homes, and they do work.  Oysters in them grow faster than oysters on the bottom, often reaching the legal minimum of 3 inches in one year, compared to three or more for "wild" oysters on natural bottom.
Richard Pelz, the ranch's founder, says he has customers who live a good distance away, like in Bethesda and north of Baltimore. He says some will carpool together to go pick up their oysters from Circle C for eating.

"Each float will produce about a bushel and a half, and if we're taking care of it, that's what we do is we give you a bushel and a half of oysters when you want them," Pelz says.

In addition to helping oysters, Pelz says crabs are fond of the floats as well. "They feed on the growth that's on it, they hide on them, there's pockets on top that they can get into where they can mate and molt," Pelz says.
Blue Crabs love oysters as much or more than people.  If a crab get into the cage naturally, and then moults to a larger size it might find itself stuck with nothing to eat but oysters.  Oh, the horror!  A single crab can wipe out the population of a float if it doesn't get found and removed.

This program doesn't really appeal to me.  I don't think I'd want to eat oysters grown in my harbor with the live aboard sail boaters, and as far as the benefit to the Bay, you might as well try to empty it with a teaspoon. 

But if you want to try it, just for fun, for education, or for good eating, go for it!

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