Thursday, February 8, 2024

A Good Year for Bay Oysters

The Baltimore Fish Bowl reports Oyster numbers and distribution enjoyed a ‘remarkable’ 2023, survey shows

Low levels of rainfall in the Chesapeake Bay watershed paved the way for improved conditions for oysters in 2023.

The number of oysters and the distribution of them across the Chesapeake Bay improved last year, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. The number of spat per bushel in 2023 was nearly four times greater than the median over the last 39 years.

When oyster larvae attach to oyster shells, they become spat, or juvenile oysters. DNR uses them as a measurement for the number of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Back in my old life, I occasionally participated in a survey like this. It's not easy work. 

In addition to the high number of spatsets in the Chesapeake Bay, the survey also found a wide distribution of places where spat reside, including “several areas where our biologists have rarely observed spat in nearly 40 years of results,” the press release said.

It’s the fourth year in a row that oyster populations have been above the median.

“We have not recorded this extent of oyster spat recruitment in the fall survey in a generation,” DNR secretary Josh Kurtz said in the release. “Both the quantity and the wide distribution of spat throughout the Bay, including several areas where our biologists have rarely observed spat in nearly 40 years of results, are outstanding.”

The increased distribution of spat was found in the Potomac River, Wicomico River, Breton Bay, and other places that have not seen as many oysters in past years. Spat were found at 50 of 53 primary sampling sites, the highest total since 1985.

1985, the year I arrived in Maryland. And it only took 4 years of favorable weather to get there. Meanwhile, Striped Bass are in a bit of trouble, and more restrictions on their fishery is coming this year, and crabs are basically at a normal population populations after a couple of bad years. 

The Wombat has Rule 5 Monday: Coffee, please ready and waiting at The Other McCain.

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