MGO – Getting Started

Answers to commonly asked MGO start-up questions

After I fill out the sign-up form, what can I expect?

Thank you for your interest in the program! We will pass along your contact info to your local tributary sponsor. This person will be your main point of contact throughout the program. They will reach out initially to get to know you and find out how many cages full of spat-on-shell you’d like to hang from your dock.  They will let you know when your cages are ready for pickup in your local community. At the time of pickup, they will give you a short briefing and information package on how to care for your oysters, and then you will receive your oysters and cages to take home.

How big are the cages?

Approximately 18″ long by 1 foot wide. After 12 months when the oysters have grown and become more mature, the cages will weigh  20-30 lbs.

What do I do with the cages?

On the day you receive your cages, attach them to your pier or wharf (with the rope provided) so the cage hangs at least 6 inches off the bottom, away from sand and silt. IMPORTANT! The cage should not touch the bottom. Please also note, that frigid winter weather – exposure to freezing air – is deadly to oysters so your cages should be far enough below the water surface that they will not be exposed.

What type of maintenance is required for oysters and cages?

Very little maintenance! Your main upkeep duties will be to keep the cages clean and, in the winter, keep them from freezing.

For cleaning: Every two weeks, rinse your oysters by lifting the cage up and down out of the water to remove silt and sediment build up (“Dunk them like a tea bag”). If needed, you can rinse them with a hose if you have one at your pier or you can scrub the cages with a brush and then rinse them by dunking them in the water. You don’t need to scrub the shells or the oysters. The goal is to reduce fouling growth on the wire cage so water can flow through to the oysters and so the cage doesn’t become too heavy due to the fouling growth.

During the winter: Oysters will die if exposed to freezing air temperatures; the oysters must be kept entirely in the water even on very low winter tides. Place the cages so they are just above the creek bottom to minimize the potential for freezing. In the spring, you can re-raise the cage.

What happens at the end of the growing period?

In about 9 months, you will be contacted and arrangements will be made for tributary representatives to collect your oysters for permanent placement on a sanctuary, an area closed to oyster harvesting. You will keep the cages to begin care-taking another group of spat.

What happens after the oysters are collected?

Immediately after your oysters are collected, please air dry your cages by letting them sit in the sun. If you want to continue with the program, be sure to tell your local coordinator. You will receive new spat-on-shell in the fall. If you elect not to continue, then your cages will be collected.

What if I have additional questions?

Please read through all the FAQs first. Still don’t find the info you need? Contact the MGO Program manager: MGO@oysterrecovery.org​.

donate mgo

A tax-deductible donation to Marylanders Grow Oysters helps keep the program running at no cost to participant volunteers.