On Sunday, June 10, 2012, Senator Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, President of the Maryland Senate, visited the shellfish aquaculture facilities of the Patuxent Seafood Company on Broomes Island and Johnny Oyster Seed in St. Leonard, Md., after attending the 25th Anniversary of Bernie Fowler’s Patuxent River Wade-In.
Jon Farrington, proprietor of Johnny Oysterseed provided a demonstration of remote setting, in which oyster larvae, shell and water are combined within a large tank to create spat and later planted on-bottom in open waters. Andy and Jill Buck, proprietors of Patuxent Seafood gave demonstration of how they farm young oysters (seed), that are raised in cages on the river bottom, until they are market-sized and ready to harvest. They also shared with Sen. Miller traditional oystering tools and equipment as well as modern aquaculture equipment.
There are many benefits associated with oyster aquaculture, which is a relatively new endeavor to the state of Maryland but has become a significant industry in nearby Virginia. Oysters are wonderful, natural filters to the water in which they live; an adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water each day. Given the condition of the bay, its rivers and tributaries, oysters are an excellent way to provide an ecological defense. Secondly, oyster aquaculture provides a way for the historical legacy of waterman to continue. Due to the declining harvests of wild oysters, many Maryland watermen have had to seek other means of making a living. Oyster aquaculture provides watermen with a predictable means for creating regular income through sustainable oyster farming.
Senator Miller was impressed with operations at both establishments and agreed oyster aquaculture is vital in establishing ecological sustainability in local waters. He was pleased to see new innovation that enables watermen (and women) to continue to working on the water, which has long been a part of Maryland’s coastal heritage.
*** Photos courtesy of Photographer Carrie Nelson