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Baltimore partnership has grown 1 million oysters in Inner Harbor since 2014

Baltimore partnership has grown 1 million oysters in Inner Harbor since 2014
Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership volunteers pour oysters into the Patapsco River from aboard the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's education vessel, the Snow Goose, as part of their effort to bolster the area's oyster population. (Courtesy of the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership)

The Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership has grown 1 million oysters in the Inner Harbor since the effort began in 2014.

The partnership, a collaboration between area nonprofits and corporations, grows the oysters in cages in the Inner Harbor. Volunteers regularly scrubbed the oysters for algae and sediment, giving the mollusks a “head-start” during a vulnerable time in their lives, said Tiffany Kim, Program Manager for the Healthy Harbor Initiative, in a statement last week.

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Oysters are then transported to a sanctuary reef in the Patapsco River, a site more conducive for growth. Conditions in the harbor, and its status as an active port, make it a more dangerous place for the growing oysters, a crucial part of the Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem as they filter out sediment and pollution from the water.

“They are grown in these cages on docks and marinas for, one, public access to actually have people take care of them,” said Carmera Thomas, Baltimore program manager for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “They cannot remain in the cages because, as juvenile oysters develop they need more space, so they need to be placed at a site that is conducive for growing oysters.”

The 1 million oysters planted by the partnership contribute to a larger goal of 5 million oysters planted in the Patapsco River by 2020 to help the state’s embattled oyster population, which was halved from 600 million to 300 million between 1999 and 2018.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has contributed 2 million oysters, raised in the Maryland Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, toward the goal, said AJ Metcalf, foundation spokesman.

Looking beyond 2020, there’s a goal to plant 10 billion oysters in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed by 2025, with state agencies and nonprofits helping, Thomas said.

The Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership includes the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Waterfront Partnership and businesses such as T. Rowe Price Group, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Legg Mason and MOM’s Organic Market.

The partnership also draws volunteers from Baltimore City Public Schools and city residents, Thomas said.

“Our team formed a deeper connection to the Inner Harbor and adoration for our incredible friend, the oyster,” said Alexandra DySard, environmental and partnership manager for MOM’s Organic Market, which joined the program last year.

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