CANTON, Md. (WJZ) — The start of oyster season brings boats and optimism to the bay.
This is the harvest that carries many watermen through winter, and in the past few years, it has been increasing.
But this year has seen more rain and fresh water flooding the Susquehanna River. In the North Bay, the effects were felt in mid-summer.
“With the influx of fresh water, specifically from the Susquehanna, has started to kill clams at a rapid rate,” said Rob Newberry with Delmarva Fisheries Association.
Without salt in the water, the catch shrank to nothing.
“Fresh water could effect the reproduction for this year, it could also have an effect on the adult oysters out there,” said Ward Slacum, with Oyster Recovery Partnership.
Oyster larvae need salty water to survive.
This year, oysters raised at the Horn Point Lab needed more than just water from the bay.
“They’ve had to add salt into the water to make sure they would have viable larvae for restoration processes,” Slacum said.
The oyster recovery project has been working to increase oyster stocks, by planting millions of oyster larvae attached to old shells.
It’s not certain how they survived this year, or how well wild oysters reproduced.
It’s still unknown how many adult oysters died after being overwhelmed by fresh water.
“We’re unclear until we do some surveys this fall whether there was any reproduction,” said Doug Myers with Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Which could mean smaller harvests in the years to come.