port and before overharvesting, pollution,
and disease nearly wiped out all oysters, millions or perhaps billions of the bivalves
made the Patapsco River their home. In the
1800s, canneries sprang up around the harbor, contributing to the local economy. The
city was considered a national center for oyster canning.
The oyster gardening project’s goal was to get
city officials and residents engaged in cleaning
up the harbor. This ties nicely with one initiative
of the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore—
making the water in the harbor clean enough
for swimming and fishing by 2025.
The volunteers regularly cleaned the oysters
for the eight months the oysters were growing in the harbor. “We know we were helping
Thousands of young oysters grew up in
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor over the past year
through a collaboration between the
Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and two
local schools. Success here will signal hope
for clean water everywhere.
The story started this past fall at CBF’s
Maryland Oyster Restoration Center in
Shady Side (see pages 18 and 19) where
40,000 baby oysters (spat) attached to
oyster shells in the center’s tanks. Staff
from four Inner Harbor businesses—
Brown Advisory, T. Rowe Price, Legg
Mason, and Constellation Energy—placed
the spat-on shell in 75 wire cages. Once
the cages were complete, the businesspeo-ple and students from Digital Harbor High
School and The Green School of
Baltimore—lowered the young oysters
into the harbor at five locations.
Like most other places around the Bay, oysters once thrived in the Inner Harbor. Before
the harbor was dredged to become a major
The Blueprint requires
the states to have strategies
in place by 2025 to make
the Chesapeake swimmable
the Bay, and so it was interesting. It was hard
work though. It wasn’t easy,” said Brown
Advisory employee Ann Cowing.
Finally, as summer approached, the gardeners checked the health of the oysters.
Because the harbor is badly polluted with
old industrial waste, sewer spills and runoff
from city streets, there was some trepidation as the cages rose.
Remarkably, about 70 percent of the young
oysters had survived both the poor harbor
conditions and the cold winter. That’s a
solid survival rate given that in the wild
only one percent is likely to survive. But
there was one more chapter in the story.
Oysters need an oyster bed upon which to
settle and grow to full size.
On June 25 and July 22, the oyster gardeners loaded the surviving oysters, each about
as big as your thumb nail, onto CBF’s education workboat Snow Goose and transported them to an oyster reef located by Fort
Carroll in the Patapsco River.
Much work is left to be done before the
Inner Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay are
swimmable, and before oysters thrive again.
But as the juvenile oysters settled into the
beds in the Patapsco, it was a reminder that
the job could be done.
Baltimore, the state of Maryland, and other
Bay jurisdictions, are starting to implement
specific plans to clean up their local waters
as part of the Chesapeake Clean Water
Blueprint. That regional plan requires the
states to have all strategies in place by 2025
to make the entire Chesapeake swimmable
Oysters can be one of those strategies. One
adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of
water a day. Billions of oyster have been
planted on protected reefs throughout the
Bay as part of the clean-up effort. And going
forward, we will continue to grow oysters in
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
uFor more information about similar issues in
Maryland, visit cbf.org/Maryland.
In October, local employees and students lowered 40,000 young oysters into the water at
five locations in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.