Shell Recovery & Acquisition

One of the biggest issues for all oyster programs is the need for shell — both shucked shell for aquaculture and restoration activities and dredged shell to harden bottoms. Shucked oyster shell is vital to efforts to enhance the native oyster population. Oyster shells are the most cost effective and efficient material to repopulate the Chesapeake Bay’s native oyster population and are used by the UMCES Horn Point Lab Hatchery and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Piney Point hatchery to create spat on shell that is used to rebuild oyster reefs.

Shell Recovery

In 2012, ORP in cooperation with DNR and watermen county-based organizations reclaimed shell from past shell plantings  around the Bay to rebuild the shell base of natural oyster bars that are then reseeded with natural or hatchery produced oyster seed. Over 400,000 bushels shell were reclaimed and planted on public fishery oyster reefs and on leases. New strategies are being investigated to determine preferred methods to increase the efficiency in acquiring this type of buried shell.

Shell Acquisition

Since 2013, ORP has been assisting the State in procuring shell from regional shucking houses to help support oyster restoration, aquaculture and the wild fishery. Shell is transported via truck and boat to areas around the State for planting on reefs or for additional aging prior to be used for spat on shell production. A majority of the shell is transported to UMCES Horn Point Lab in Cambridge, MD where it will be further aged for an additional 6 to 12 months. Once aged, the shell will be washed to remove the dried organic material and to clean and sort the shell. The washed shell is then placed in tanks for the spat on shell process.

Shell Recycling

Maryland has seen a steady decline in the amount of shell that it acquires from its Oyster Shell Purchase Program from oyster shucking houses. To support DNR’s shell collection program, the Oyster Recovery Partnership initiated a shell recycling program to collect discarded shell from restaurants, catering businesses and seafood wholesalers.