By Alex DeMetrick

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—A federal agency is ordering up some oysters—hundreds of millions of oysters.

For much of the past decade, Maryland has been doing this to bring back a thriving oyster population in the bay.

Riding those shells are baby oysters called spat, that were raised in the lab.

“What we’re doing here is putting oysters over here from the hatchery, in a place that wouldn’t naturally get a good spat set,” said Don Merit, with University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

Now, a $800,000 federal grant from NOAA, will be used to plant one and a half billion oyster spat, over the next three years.

“If these oysters grow and survive and they reproduce, so that you get a sustainable population in that area,” said David Blazer, fisheries director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

If one and a half billion over three years seems like a tall order, it isn’t.

“Over 700 million will be planted from our setting tanks this year in the hatchery. That does not include another 300 million we’re doing for other programs. So we’re already over a billion so far for the year,” said Merit.

The more oysters survive, the healthier the bay becomes.

“The more oysters we have the better the habitat we have. They also filter the water, a good cleansing organism for the bay,” said Blazer.

With a long term goal, likey decades away, of a Chesapeake once again abundant with oysters.

The NOAA grant stipulates the oysters are to be planted in protected sanctuaries, currently off limits to harvesting.