BALTIMORE (WJZ) — They act as nature’s filter. Oysters, helping pump life back into the Chesapeake Bay.

“Three hundred other species are associated with the oysters reefs in the bay,” said Doug Myers, Maryland senior scientist for the Chesapeake Bay.

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But the oyster population is nowhere near what it used to be.

“The bay used to contain oyster reefs that were so abundant that they were navigational hazards but we’re down to about 2%of the historic oyster abundance,” Myers said.

And it shows, as the Chesapeake Bay received a D+ on the 2020 State of the Bay report.

“Folks that are my age, our whole life has been working on restoring these degrading ecosystems,” Myers said.

With numerous factors contributing to the poor grade. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been focusing on oyster restoration to help change the tide of the bay’s overall health.

“We’re rebuilding oyster reefs at a scale that’s never been done before,” Myers said.

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It’s a time-consuming process that starts with collecting used oyster shells from nearby restaurants. After a year of drying and curing, they’re moved to tanks where oyster larvae attach to the shell, becoming known as “spat.”

“During the course of the season, we can put out anywhere from 30-35 million oysters just from these four tanks,” Myers said.

Eventually the spat will be spread on oyster beds.

“One adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day,” said Camera Thomas, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

It is all in the hope to improve the health of the bay.

“What we’re doing here on land and in the water is helping restore that habitat but improve water quality for years to come,” Thomas said.

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If you want to help the foundation, a $50 donation will help them grow 5,000 native oysters.

Sean Streicher