11 Million Baby Oysters Planted in Severn River as Cruise Passengers Watch

Cruise passengers snacked on fresh-shucked oysters as they watched oyster spat be planted in the Severn River. Photo: Charlie Youngmann

Dozens gathered at the Annapolis City Dock Monday to board the Lady Sarah and witness the Oyster Recovery Partnership’s (ORP) large-scale new effort to restore the bivalve’s population in the Severn River. Huddled away from the rain, passengers learned about the oyster life cycle while millions of juvenile oysters found their way into a new, protected home.

Through the ORP’s “Operation Build a Reef,” private individuals have the opportunity to donate to the restoration of oyster beds between the Severn River Bridge and the Naval Academy Bridge in Annapolis. $100 pays for a bushel of “spat on shell,” or thousands of baby oysters planted on recycled shells.

Clad in his “Oyster Police” t-shirt, ORP Director of Partnerships Paul Schurick shucked away at the pile of oysters available for cruise dining, all while answering any oyster-related questions shot his way. Schurick said that last year, his organization was able to collect and reuse 30 thousand discarded oyster shells from restaurants and an additional 120 thousand from commercial shucking operations.

Family friend Will Peeler said he had only learned to shuck an oyster 18 hours before the cruise. Nonetheless, he accompanied Schurick in opening the mollusks to line a hull-shaped tub of ice for cruise guests. “[Schurick] can still do two for every one I get, but you have to start somewhere,” Peeler said.

 The  Robert Lee  loaded with 11 million juvenile oysters
The Robert Lee loaded with 11 million juvenile oysters

With the help of private donations, ORP was able to collect an additional 10 million juvenile oysters to accompany the 40 million provided by the state of Maryland. The day of the cruise, a powerful hose blasted about 11 million off the side of the ORP’s planting boat, the Robert Lee, while cruise patrons watched from the Lady Sarah.

“Most of us have grown up on the bay, and we have an interest in protecting it,” said Miltec UV owner Joe Blandford, working his way through a complementary lunch. “We wanted to get involved in local organizations,” Beth Mosner, the company’s Sales and Marketing Administrator, added.

Based out of Stevensville, Md., Miltec UV was one of the many ORP sponsors present on the cruise. Others included Flywheel, Reliable Contracting Company, Inc., Underwood & Associates, Marriner Marketing, Watermark, and the Chaney Foundation.

Anne Arundel County Executive Steven Schuh emphasized that the County has more than 530 miles of tidal shoreline—more than any other jurisdiction in Maryland. Schuh declared that “no organization works harder than the Oyster Restoration Partnership,” to protect and replenish the area’s marine life.

-Charlie Youngmann