Join us in helping restore the Chesapeake Bay oyster population
In 2011, the Phillips Wharf Environmental Center joined the larger, state run Marylanders Grow Oysters program in their efforts to help restore wild oyster populations. Thus began the Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters program.
With the support of the Marylanders Grow Oysters program and the Oyster Recovery Partnership, larval oysters, known as spat on shell, are provided to Phillips Wharf to distribute to volunteer growers. Volunteers sign up to host these juvenile oysters by hanging them from their docks in cages for approximately 9 months. During this time, the volunteer growers are expected to occasionally shake the cages to help keep the oysters clean of any dirt and other debris.
At the end of the program, the cages are collected and the juvenile oysters are planted on wild oyster reefs. Specifically, the TIGO program has planted oysters in the Harris Creek Sanctuary since its inception as 2011 was also the beginning of the oyster restoration project in Harris Creek called for in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.
Since we began the Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters program, we have planted over 780,000 juvenile oysters, supplementing the 2.9 billion spat on shell planted by the state at a total cost of $29 million since 2011. Since 2002, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has observed a general trend of increasing oyster populations in Harris Creek and the Choptank River, suggesting that restoration efforts are working.
Citizen Science programs such as the Tilghman Islanders Grow Oysters program, allow local residents to engage with restoration efforts, garner support for restoration projects, and help reduce the overall cost of these projects.
In addition, oysters grown through this program are expected to have increased survival rates and growth, compared to the seed oysters typically used in large scale restoration projects. By keeping these juvenile oysters in cages, they are protected against some predators and the occasional cleaning ensures they have good water flow for breathing and feeding. This allows the juvenile oysters to grow rapidly so that many are over an inch in size when the cages are collected and the oysters are planted on wild oyster reefs.
The Phillips Wharf Environmental Center recruits volunteer growers along Harris Creek and Broad Creek. If you are interested in participating, please email us at [email protected] and we will be in touch!
If you would like to support our program financially, you can do so by clicking the donate button below. Thank you for your interest and support in our program!