One such initiative is restoring the river’s native oyster population. NSR built a large oyster reef several years ago and now is raising an abundance of juvenile oysters (called “spat”) in floating cages.
These juveniles will grow from pinhead size to up to 3 inches in diameter in the nine to 12 months they are kept in the cages. When the oysters reach adult size, they will be transplanted onto the reef and a new batch of spat will be put in the cages.
So why is replenishing the oyster population so important? Oysters filter algae and suspended materials as they feed – an adult Atlantic Oyster can purify as much as 50 gallons of water each day.
Steve Guajardo, who works in NSR’s Environmental Department, has planted oysters in the shipyard since the program began. He cares for the spat by removing crabs and rinsing off the algal growth every two weeks. In addition to the shipyard’s own oyster restoration project, the Environmental Department has mentored two other local ship repair companies on oyster rearing – providing them with several thousand oysters and floating cages.
Mike Ewing, an NSR environmental manager, said, “We are confident that our restoration project will eventually yield a genetic strain that is more tolerant of the diseases that have decimated native oysters, and that our next generation will see an improvement in water quality in the Chesapeake Bay as these revised oyster populations thrive.”