A Growing Industry: Advancing Oyster Aquaculture in Maryland

August 2023 • Volume 22, Number 1

Containerized Culture

By Madeleine Jepsen

No two oyster growing operations are the same. Variations in water conditions, gear types, and harvest methods mean that what works for one oyster farm may vastly differ for another. Farming oysters is backbreaking work, so technology and research usually focus on two things: improving the quality of the oyster and lightening the workload. Understanding the genetics of oyster health and how the environment affects growth allows growers to nurture their oysters from seed to market. Other innovations around the farm help keep the workload manageable for growers.

Eyes on the Prize Catch

In designated waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay, some shellfish farmers grow and harvest oysters directly on the Bay bottom. Could new technology help modernize oyster farming, improving harvests and speeding up the oyster’s recovery throughout the Bay? A team of researchers are developing a remotely operated vehicle that can map underwater areas and collect data, helping watermen grow and harvest more oysters from on-bottom aquaculture. Graphics show this smart tech in action. 

The Baby Oyster Bottleneck

Most of the oysters raised by aquaculture begin their lives in an oyster hatchery. These facilities spawn oysters and raise the resulting baby oysters for the first few weeks of their lives. But demand for young oysters always exceeds what hatcheries can produce.

A Sticking Point

Wild oysters grow on other oysters, forming reefs in the Bay and its tributaries. Most of Maryland’s farmed oysters are grown on oyster shell that growers spread across the Bay bottom. But oyster shell is pricey and its supply is limited, so researchers are investigating alternative materials.
Cover photo by Jay Fleming
Cover photo by Jay Fleming

In This Issue

Related Links

Maryland Sea Grant
[Maryland Sea Grant] Maryland Sea Grant NOAA
Stay Connected
Chesapeake Quarterly is published by Maryland Sea Grant | Privacy Policy | © 2024 Maryland Sea Grant