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Oyster Ranchers

A large-scale oyster farming operation on the Chesapeake Bay's Choptank River. 

A large-scale oyster farming operation on the Chesapeake Bay's Choptank River. 

The current wild oyster population in Chesapeake Bay sadly is at 1 per cent of historic levels. That’s not only bad news for the fishery, but also for water quality. A single oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day, so the vast wild oyster beds that used to thrive in Chesapeake Bay surely played a vital role in filtering the water and improving its clarity.

Though the wild harvest of Chesapeake Bay oysters continues, the practice of growing oysters in large aquaculture operations has exploded over the last five to seven years. Some of the larger operations have 5 to 6 million oysters in the water at a time, which means the busy bivalves are filtering as much as 300 million gallons of local water each day.

This video shows how oyster aquaculture is having a positive effect on Bay waters:

There are additional benefits from the practice. A percentage of the oysters are able to reproduce, casting their fertilized eggs into the surrounding waters, which aids in boosting local wild populations. Oysters also provide great habitat for small fish and other aquatic life, even when they are raised in cages. 

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