Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Bit of an Exaggeration

On a man-made reef built to help Chesapeake Bay oysters recover in the Patapsco River, nature is taking over. Researchers have found signs of new life among the mollusks.

In a semi-annual checkup of the reef next to Fort Carroll and the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation found two spat — the name for oyster larvae that have attached themselves to the shells of other bivalves.

It may not sound like much given that the bay’s oyster population is less than 1 percent of its precolonial size.
Once oyster larvae attach to a surface, such as other oyster shells
 they are known as spat (shown in inset image)

But it’s an important step, said Allison Colden, Maryland fisheries scientist for the foundation. And it’s an especially promising one amid fears that the species might have suffered during a record year of precipitation.

Maryland could see smaller, and fewer, oysters this year. You can blame all that rain.

Three million oysters were planted on a bed of granite by Fort Carroll in April 2017 through a collaboration that included the bay foundation, Maryland Port Administration and Maryland Environmental Service. At the time, it wasn’t clear how they would fare given poor water quality in and around the Baltimore harbor.
The Patapsco is pretty far upstream, and the water is awfully fresh for oysters, especially this year. There were large beds up there prior to the great oyster mining of the last two centuries.

But a return of two isn't going to cut it. I used to participate in an oyster survey off our shores, and finding multiple spat on oyster shells was rather common. And those beds weren't doing all that well.

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