Center Oyster Gardeners
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Message regarding the closure of the Oyster Gardening Program
After more than 20 years, the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays Oyster Gardening Program ended on December 31, 2022. We will not be delivering new oyster spat-on shell in 2023.
Why is the program ending?
The program’s goal was to determine if the wild Atlantic Oyster could grow in the Inland Bays. This goal has been accomplished, oysters have been proven to thrive in the Bays, and in fact, one result of the program’s success is the introduction of a commercial oyster farming industry into the Bays. So, with the goal accomplished, it’s time to look to other ways to promote the health of the Inland Bays.
Can I still join the program?
For new, potential Oyster Gardeners, we regret that we will not be accepting any new applications to join the program. We encourage you to seek other ways to support the Bays by checking the CIB website at https://www.inlandbays.org/contact-us/.
What do I do with my 2022 oysters?
First, please continue to care for your 2022 oysters. We’re not giving up on them, and we hope to see a good “harvest” for the season. Remember to log in your volunteer hours spent caring for your oysters. Second, we will collect your 2022 oysters, beginning late Summer. The 2022 deliveries did not begin until September, and we want the new oysters to have as much growing time as possible. We will contact you when collections are about to begin. Third, The Center is exploring new ways to engage you in helping restore the health of the Inland Bays. We hope you will continue to support these new projects as you have so enthusiastically supported Oyster Gardening.
Thank you for your support
On behalf of the Center for the Inland Bays Thank You to all of you who participated in the Oyster Gardening Program over the years. We will be in touch regarding future projects, and we ask you to continue to “Get on board with the Bays” by volunteering your time and by participating in the many Center events. For more information, visit our event calendar.
About the Program
The Center’s Oyster Gardening program was a restoration project that employed waterfront property owners to raise small amounts of oysters in the waters that surround their docks and bulkheads. The Center provided juvenile oysters and gear to raise them; the “gardeners” provided basic husbandry and grew them for about one year, when they were then 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 brought together scientists and volunteers in an effort to restore the American Oyster (Crassostrea virginica) to the waters of Delaware’s Inland Bays. The program was a cooperative effort between the Center, the Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, and volunteers throughout the Inland Bays watershed!
The Oyster Gardening program employed volunteer gardeners to care for small “spat,” growing them to adult size by practicing basic husbandry techniques. Each gardener was responsible for one site, and each site grew approximately one-hundred oysters, using spat stocks and gear provided by the Center.
Oyster larvae used in the program were 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 were then distributed throughout the Inland Bays to the gardeners for grow-out in their baskets. Gardeners were in possession of the oysters for one year, when the Center then removed them and placed them in various restoration or research projects throughout the Bays.
Oyster Gardening oysters were 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.
Watch Our Project Video
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 baskets?
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?