Final Cage Maintenance And THANK YOU!!

To all of our growers:

I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for your participation in The Chesapeake Bay “Advance and Protect” Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative.

When we started our program three years ago, our goal was to double our number of growers each year. In our first year, we attracted 16 growers. In our second year, we increased our ranks to 34. This past year we amassed a total of 84 growers with a combined total of 326 cages. In three short years, our 84 growers and their 326 cages constitute 4.94% of the 1,700 participants in the Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program and 4.35% of all of the cages in use. And, we’re just getting started.

When we planted your oysters last week on the sanctuary which the state has created for us to use, Chris Judy from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources conservatively estimates that 22,000 oysters were grown by all of you in your cages and planted on this new sanctuary.

Here is what is so exciting about our project: In the wild, oyster reproduction can be exponential. In just one year, a single mature oyster can produce up to thirty five (35) new, viable oysters. The next year, that original oyster can again produce 35 new oysters, and the 35 oysters it created in the first season can each create 35 new oysters. So, in two seasons, just one oyster has now turned into a total of 1,260 oysters. After three seasons, the number jumps to 45,396 – from just ONE oyster three years before!

So, the 22,000 oysters we planted doesn’t necessarily sound enormous, until you realize that in three years, from our one planting of 22,000 oysters, this could result in 943,250,000 new oysters! When you do the math, the effects of compounding are absolutely phenomenal. Also remember that each one of those oysters, when mature, can filter up to 55 gallons of water a day!

Because of this miracle of compounding, this is why our goal has been and is, to double our number of growers every year and to plant more and more oysters each year. When you look at the math, we truly believe that our collective efforts will actually make a significant difference in cleaning up the Bay and restoring the abundance of marine life that used to be.


When our volunteers picked up your oysters last week, they left your cages on your dock. In our first two years, cage fouling had become a very large issue, not only in terms of inhibiting oyster growth, but also the heavy fouling and the incredible weight that they added to the cages made our volunteer’s jobs very difficult when it came to pick up and delivery. As a result, last Fall (the beginning of our last growing season), I decided to send out weekly cage maintenance letters during the times of heavy micro-organism growth. I am very pleased to report that the maintenance letters had a very positive impact. In our first two years, 95% of our grower’s cages had very heavy fowling. This year, we had our volunteer corps rate every cage and here are the results: 1/3 had little or no growth/fouling, 1/3 had moderate growth/fouling and 1/3 had heavy growth/fouling. Thank you for taking such good care of your cages! It will help us to keep our existing volunteers and attract new volunteers in the future. We simply cannot function without them and we thank you for your time and effort.

Here is what you need to do to put your cages to bed for the summer:

    • To knock off loose, hard growth, gently but firmly bang the cages on the surface of your dock.
    • Put the cages back overboard for 24 hours. This will cause the dry, hard growth to become soft and malleable.
    • With a scrub brush and/or terry cloth dish towel, scrub the outside of the cages (scrub away from you to keep the debris from getting on you). Dunk the cages in the water to wash away the loosened debris. Next, open the cages and scrub the inside, then dunk the cage in the water to remove the loosened debris.
    • Repeat step #3 several more times, if necessary, to remove all of the old growth. If your cages are heavily fouled, it is easier and takes less time to repeat the process rather than trying to get the outside/inside completely clean on the first scrub. Even with heavily fouled cages, it should only take you 5-7 minutes per cage to get them clean! (Also remember to scrub the debris from the rope).
    • When we deliver your next batch of oysters in the fall, while it only takes a few minutes each week to maintain the cages, please let us know if – for any reason – you are having difficulty getting it done. We will try to find someone to help you. We want do everything we can to keep you as a grower!

Thank you once again for all that you have done. I hope to see most of you at our 3rd Annual Oyster Social this Thursday, June 12th at The Tidewater Inn. Please let us know if we can help you in any way!

The Oyster Reef Recovery Initiative