By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s an investment of time and effort, but the payoff of a cleaner bay is still far from certain.

Still, as Alex DeMetrick reports, people are not giving up on that goal.

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They left work in the high rise businesses around the Inner Harbor to take on a new job: cages that will function as underwater cradles for baby oysters.

Called spat, they’re the small brown spots attached to old oyster shells. Raised in labs, this is the day they transition into some of the most polluted water in Maryland: Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The cages ease that shock.

“We put them in cages and hang them near the surface, where there’s plenty of oxygen and food for them to be able to survive,” said Adam Linquist, Baltimore Waterfront Partnership.

But not without help. For the next nine months, each cage must be cleaned and cared for by a volunteer.

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“We’re very interested in doing something to clean up the bay and help the community and we felt this was a very, very important cause,” said Dan Evans, Legg Mason volunteer.

One, tens of millions of dollars have been spent to bring the native oyster population back to the bay and the bay back to health because oysters filter nutrients and clean the water.

Raising oysters in cages, even in water as polluted as the Inner Harbor, ups their chances for survival.

“Last year, about 70 percent survived, which is excellent because in the wild they have about a one percent survival rate,” Linquist said.

Those raised last year left the Inner Harbor for a boat ride to the outer harbor near the Key Bridge.

And while releasing them on a small reef here won’t clean much of the bay, getting more people invested in the oysters’ survival, just might increase the bay’s chances.

If the newest crop of baby oysters matches past survival rates in the harbor, 167,000 more oysters will go back into the wild next year.

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