We’re committed to restoring the Eastern oyster as the keystone species of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.
This is Our Vision.
Early History of a Bountiful Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the country’s largest estuary, and the second largest in the world at around 65,000 acres. Waterman have worked the Chesapeake Bay for over 200 years, hauling crabs, oysters, and fish.
And for generations, this massive waterway was also the world’s most productive estuary. At the industry’s height, hundreds of skipjacks successfully dredged the bay with peak production of 20 million bushels of oysters harvested annually in the mid-1880s.
That kind of work has always been dominated by family businesses, with know-how and work ethic passed from generation to generation. These working-waterfront families built strong communities on the back of the thriving industry. Places like Deal Island, Crisfield, and Hoopers Island grew into the country’s most unique and idyllic working waterfronts.
A Downturn for the Estuary
The good times did not last forever. A major blow to the Bay’s productivity came in the 1960s, when new diseases ravaged the Bay’s oyster stocks, cutting the catch by 90 percent.
By the mid-1980s, the industry was on a downward spiral. Since then, increasing pollution and tightening regulations have made fishing, crabbing, and oyster operations increasingly infeasible.
In fact, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources estimates that wild-oyster populations in its part of the Bay declined from 600 million market-size oysters in 1999 to 300 million in 2018 — a 50 percent reduction in less than 20 years.
The economy, environment, and culture of the Bay have suffered.
Historic waterfront communities have faded. Younger generations now tend to avoid the endangered fishing industry, leaving the area for better opportunities. Formerly vibrant main streets are peppered with shuttered, vacant storefronts.
Oysters Become a Key Part of the Solution
The oyster industry is responding in powerful ways through oyster aquaculture. Oysters are incredibly helpful to the health of the Bay — and remarkably efficient and effective at filtering water. Each oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day, consuming phytoplankton, and removing nitrogen and phosphorous (nutrients) from the water. Nitrogen and phosphorus are assimilated in the meat and shell of the oyster by consuming phytoplankton and particulate organic matter. Once oysters are harvested, the nutrients are permanently removed from the water. And a time when food production is straining our environment in so many ways, oyster aquaculture creates a sustainable and environmentally beneficial pathway of creating protein for consumption.
The trend is positive: The rate of oyster farming in Maryland’s section of the Chesapeake Bay has grown 20 times over since 2012, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Blue Oyster is at the heart of this positive trend. Our mission is to bring a revolutionary, 21st-century approach to scaling the Chesapeake’s oyster aquaculture industry, enlisting the vast watershed’s communities and businesses to help improve the environment and storied culture of the country’s largest estuary.
We get the whole watershed involved.
The cities and counties, farms, and businesses in the watershed are required by law to reduce the amount of pollutants flowing into the Bay.
In 2018 the Department of Environment established a credit-trading program for nitrogen and phosphorous. The program recognizes the nutrient-reduction effectiveness of farm-raised oysters based on guidance from a Chesapeake Bay Program Expert Panel.
This new nutrient regulatory framework facilitates our mission. Under these new rules, Blue Oyster sells the valuable nutrient credits generated by the oyster farmers to surrounding municipalities and businesses.
Our company is committed to reestablishing the Eastern oyster as the keystone species of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem.
As the oyster industry thrives again, so too will the working waterfront communities that have made up the heart and soul of the Bay for generations.