Maryland oyster population is on the rise

Maryland oyster population is on the rise

We have bad news and good news: the crab population may be down because of such a cold winter, but oysters seem to have a different fate.

“Oysters have been doing well in the bay for the last 11 years with some low mortality rates and some pretty good spat sets,” said Mike Naylor, with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Spat sets are the young oysters growing in our bay. The latest survey shows baby oysters, spat, and adult oysters showing up in bigger numbers. One reason for the better numbers:  Diseases that attack oysters aren't having as big of an impact as they did in the past.

“MSX and dermo disease are both protozoa and parasite that effect oysters in the bay,” Naylor said. “Not as many of those oysters are dying of those over the last decade.”

That's led to an increase in the number of oysters that waterman have caught over the last four years.

“Over 400,000 oysters were harvested in the bay over the winter and that's about a $13 million economic contribution to the Eastern Shore,” Naylor said.

One business benefiting from a better oyster population is Harris's Seafood Company.

It has been in the oyster processing business since 1947. Oysters here are doing so well that Harris's was able to help other areas of our country that weren't doing as well.

“There were some issues in the Gulf of Mexico and we were able to supply them as well, because the Chesapeake Oyster has been praised upon for many, many years,” said Jason Ruth with Harris’s Seafood Co/

A better oyster population means a better bay.

“They are the biggest filter feeders we have,” Ruth said, “With that filtration the oysters provide we have better bay grasses which in turn bring habitat for soft crabs and fish and many other species in the bay.”