BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A program growing in popularity received a cash infusion to keep oysters growing.

Alex DeMetrick reports the money came from chickens.

Perdue Farms is a poultry powerhouse on the Eastern Shore and not without critics when it comes to chicken manure. Full of nitrogen, it’s a useful fertilizer.

It’s also perfect for feeding algae when it washes off the land. Too much algae creates dead zones in the bay, but algae is also what oysters eat.

“We’ve got to put oysters back in the bay. You can’t run a car without an oil filter; you can’t run the bay without filtering the bay. We don’t have that filter,” said Jim Perdue.

So Perdue is giving $50,000 to the Marylanders Grow Oysters program.

“We grow about 100,000 oysters a year,” said volunteer John Bacon.

Bacon is a volunteer in that program. He’s supplied with cages containing oyster shells, which he hangs off his dock. On those shells are baby oysters raised and attached in a lab.

When the oysters grow out, they’ll be moved from backyard docks onto protected sanctuaries and a long-term goal.

“What we need to do is grow those oysters and leave them alone so they become resistant to disease and finally repopulate the bay,” said DNR Secretary Joe Gill.

The oyster program started in 2008 with 170 growers on one waterway. Today, it’s up to 1,800 growers on 30 waterways who have raised six million oysters. The reason why is a common one.

“The bay is really important to us so we want to make sure we do our part to help keep the bay clean,” Bacon said.

The volunteers who grow oysters are just one part of an ongoing effort involving federal and state agencies, which has planted more than four billion oysters in Maryland sanctuaries.

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