Resources for Current
Center Oyster Gardeners
Thank you, Dogfish Head for being our current
leading Oyster Gardening sponsor!
Program Membership Donation
Log Your Hours
Learn the Basics
For fullscreen, click the bottom right corner
of the video box.
Sign Your Waiver2020 Oyster Gardener Waiver
Contact the Project Lead
Special Inland Bays Oyster Gardening Program Message
Dear Oyster Gardeners:
I am contacting all present and future Oyster Gardeners to update you on the status of the program during these uncertain COVID-19 times.
We ask current Oyster Gardeners to raise your oysters up from their winter berth, near the bottom and resume cleaning approximately every 2 weeks. Please continue to log your volunteer hours in the volunteer portal. If you are not at your Inland Bays home, do not worry. If you can fill out the 2020 Oyster Gardener Waiver; either scan or take a picture and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
As of today, no decisions have been made about the 2020 Oyster Gardening program. We do know that Governor Carney’s emergency orders have closed all group volunteer and staff activities until at least May 15th. Therefore, this year’s training will be online, rather than in person. We do not yet know how the rest of the program will be impacted by the pandemic. Everything is on hold for the moment, but we will keep you informed as more information becomes available. Also, we are planning some alternative activities for our oyster gardeners, in case we are unable to obtain larvae this season.
Also, we regret to inform you that Ken Parcher has resigned from his position as the Oyster Gardening Program Assistant. I can’t thank him enough for his help with the program. As you might imagine, the logistics of the program are considerable and Ken’s efforts have been nothing short of amazing. Thanks, Ken! We have selected a replacement, but his start date is on hold for the moment.
Please stay safe – both with handling your oysters and navigating the COVID-19 world.
About the Program
The Center’s Oyster Gardening program is a restoration project that employs waterfront property owners to raise small amounts of oysters in the waters that surround their docks and bulkheads. The Center provides juvenile oysters and gear to raise them; the “gardeners” provide basic husbandry and grow them for about one year, when they will then be used in restoration projects.
The program began in 2003 through a generous grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Five-star Restoration Challenge Grant Program. The program brings together scientists and volunteers in an effort to restore the American Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) to the waters of Delaware’s Inland Bays. The program is now a cooperative effort between the CIB, the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, the Town of South Bethany and volunteers!
The Oyster Gardening program employs volunteer gardeners to care for small “spat”, growing them to adult size by practicing basic husbandry techniques. Each gardener is responsible for one site, and each site grows approximately one-hundred oysters, using spat stocks and gear provided by the CIB.
Oyster larvae used in the program are hatchery-produced at the Rutgers University Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, using broodstock lines bred for resistance to MSX and Dermo disease. In the hatchery, a million or more microscopic oyster larvae are exposed to spent oyster shell to imitate the natural “setting” process. During early summer, trays of oyster shell with fingernail-sized spat are then distributed throughout the Inland Bays to the gardeners for grow-out in their Taylor Floats. Gardeners will be in possession of the oysters for one year, when CIB will remove them and place them in various restoration or research projects throughout the bays.
Oyster Gardening oysters are not grown for food and are not suitable for human consumption.
- Research on oysters and prove that oysters can grow great anywhere in our Inland Bays;
- Improve water quality through various restoration efforts;
- Protect young spat, giving them a chance to grow through better conditions;
- Create habitat for other marine species which are the base of the food chain for fish, crabs and other species;
- Educate volunteers and the general public about the ecology and value of a healthy population of Inland Bays oysters.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Don’t we already have oysters in the Inland Bays?
Tell me about oysters, why are they so special?
You cage oysters?
How big are the cages or floats?
Volunteers are the actual oyster gardeners?
Where do the volunteers get the baby oysters to start their project?
Can humans eat the oysters?
Where are you putting the oysters?
What does it take to be an Oyster Gardener?
Since it is estimated that a single mature oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each day, think of the positive impact we could produce by placing 100,000 oysters in our bays year after year! Give us a call if you’d like to be considered for our Oyster Gardening program. The Center’s office number is 302-226-8105 or contact the Program Manager at email@example.com.