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Md. Oyster Population, Reproduction Up For Second Year

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Pulling good news out of a troubled Chesapeake Bay doesn’t happen every day.

But Alex DeMetrick reports it’s turning up, at least for now, on the half-shell.

They’ve been doing this since 1939: the annual survey of oysters in Maryland’s part of the bay.

And for the past 28 years, DNR scientists have been focusing on survival rates. That’s because loss of habitat and diseases fatal to oysters have ravaged the population.

But results from the most recent survey bring promising news.

“We have had the best survival rate since we began measuring survival in 1985,” said Mike Naylor, Department of Natural Resources.

The survey found a 93 percent survival rate for oysters. It also found the number of oysters is up for the second year in a row, making it the highest population since 1999.

“This is excellent news. Having more oysters out there now means oyster reproduction can be even better this summer,” said Naylor.

Baby oysters called spat set on other oyster shells. And for the past few years, watermen have been seeing signs of a rebound.

“There’s a lot of young oysters from last year’s set, and hopefully the disease doesn’t affect them and they grow up,” said John Orme, waterman.

The numbers aren’t just good news for oysters. Watermen saw their catch triple this past season from 100,000 bushels last year to 300,000 bushels.

Weather is a big reason oysters are currently doing better. In years of severe drought, the bay turns saltier, triggering the diseases that can wipe out oysters.

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