By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It takes a lot of work to duplicate nature.

Just ask people trying to restore oyster populations to the Chesapeake Bay.

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At the Oyster Recovery Partnership, larvae (or “spat”) are produced and settled onto recycled oyster shells. This happens at the Horn Point Lab near Cambridge.

A boat ride takes the finished product out on the Choptank River.

“What we’re doing is putting oysters over from the hatchery in a place that wouldn’t naturally get a decent spat set,” says Dr. Donald Merit.

One planting may involve millions of oysters, but that’s just a drop in the bucket.

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“We’re over 700 million that we’ve planted from our setting tanks this year at the hatchery,” Merit says.

According to the ORP, the Chesapeake Bay oyster industry was “the envy of the world” until the oyster stock collapsed nearly 50 years ago because of disease, habitat loss, declining water quality and historic over-harvesting.

In the early 1990s, the state started working toward recovery, which led to the ORP.

Since its creation, the partnership has planted nearly 6.6 billion oysters on 2,200 acres of oyster reefs and nearly 100,000 bushels of shell have been recycled to provide homes for new oysters.

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