By Alex DeMetrick

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)– The struggle to bring oysters back to the Chesapeake Bay has encountered a new challenge.

It took a few years, but adult-sized oysters grown in cages off a dock in the Severn River, are going by boat to a new home thanks to volunteers.

“We live on the river, we fish the river year in year out, and we feel obligated to do what we can to keep the river clean,” said Rodney Daff of the Severn Rod and Keg Club.

Oysters clean the river by filtering the water on a man-made reef below the surface.

“An elevated shelf on the edge of a channel with lots of water moving back and forth; that’s oyster heaven,” said John Page Williams of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Adult oysters join others planted earlier on the reef, but none of it would be possible without old oyster shells. Microscopic oyster larvae raised in the lab, go into a bath to attach to empty shells. It’s what they do in the wild, eventually becoming tiny baby oysters called spat. At 10 spat per shell, it adds up fast.

“I think we put 112 million spat on shell out here in the last four years,” said Wayne Wilson of the Kent County Waterman’s Association.

Shells are the building blocks.

“We couldn’t possibly run out of shell,” said Williams.

Over the past century, heavy harvesting and disease crashed oyster stocks in the Bay, and the shells needed to replenish it. That has created a recycling effort, by collecting shells from restaurants and oyster eaters.

“Residents can come and dispose of their shells. It’s a convenience for them and also it’s a great thing to do for the environment,” said Jennifer Combs of the Baltimore DPW.

Recycled shells don’t just come from Maryland, they’re also collected in other Mid-Atlantic states.

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