Norfolk – The Virginia Port Authority is sponsoring the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) 2011 oyster gardening program that is aimed at helping to restore oyster stocks in the bay.
Oyster populations have declined drastically over the past decades and CBF is working to restore them. One way is by training citizen oyster gardeners throughout southeastern Virginia to nurture baby oysters for a year until they are big enough to be planted on sanctuary reefs.
"By becoming an oyster gardener, residents can have a direct, positive impact on their local water quality," said Heather Wood, the VPA's director of environmental programs. "The program is recruiting local volunteers to grow oysters at docks for one year. Their efforts will boost oyster populations in Hampton Roads waterways."
The program begins with one-hour training workshops that are offered this summer in various cities throughout the region. After a year, the oysters will be placed on sanctuary oyster reefs in local rivers. Currently, there are more than 300 Virginia volunteers who raise oysters for restoration. Since 1996, CBF and its partners have grown or transplanted approximately 10 million oysters and have helped build or restock 33 reefs.
Oysters filter algae caused by nutrient pollution – the biggest problem facing the Bay and its waterways. A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of polluted water per day. Oysters also provide food for underwater species and create vibrant reef habitat.
Advanced registration is necessary for new and returning oyster gardeners. A $30 donation covers the cost of 1,000 native baby oysters (seed), and includes membership in CBF. To register, visit www.cbf.org/virginiaoysters, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 757/622-1964.