If you have taken a walk along the pier at the Swim and Racquet Club gazebo, you may have noticed the ropes (lines) dangling from the pier with cages suspended in the water. Well, those cages are home to oyster spat.
Young oysters, called spat, are small, vulnerable and subject to numerous stresses in open waters. In cages however, they can grow protected from smothering silt and from predation by blue crabs. By making the pier a temporary home and providing protection and care for the young oysters, we can give them an optimal start in life. This also can create new life for the water. Thousands of organisms will inhabit the cages, which will become miniature living oyster reefs suspended from the pier. Mud crabs, grass shrimp, worms, and numerous fish such as blennies, gobys, baby eels and minnows can inhabit the cages. Additionally, each cage with spat at about one inch in size will filter up to 50 gallons of water per day per cage. Oysters and other creatures in the cage eat and remove algae, which is far too abundant in the coastal bays.
With support from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP), OP installed the spat cages last autumn. Once every 2 weeks, a member of the Environment and Natural Assets Advisory Committee raises the cages from the water and gives them a shake to remove sediment and to ensure that the spat is not buried in the lagoon bottom. This summer MCBP will collect the spat which will then be planted in a local sanctuary. These spat are not edible because they are too small and the waters in which we have nurtured them are not monitored sufficiently to ensure that they are disease-free.
If you have waterfront and are interested in supporting this important effort contact Maryland Coastal Bays at 410-213-2297.