Chesapeake Bay: Oyster gardening helps improve quality of local waterways

Did you know these stats about oysters and oyster gardening?
  • Adult oysters filter up to 50 gallons of water a day, removing algae and sediment that negatively affect waterways.
  • Oyster reefs provide habitats for more than 300 different plants and animals in the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Volunteers in the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's oyster gardening program grow approximately 300,000 oysters per year for restoration.
  • The three-dimensional nature of oyster reefs vastly increases the surface area available to not only oysters but other plants and animals that depend on hard substrate for all or part of their life cycle.
  • Oyster gardening accelerates the growth rate of oysters better than raising the marine mollusks in their natural environment. This is important because the larger the oysters, the more eggs they produce -- a 3-inch female can produce 30 million eggs; a 3.5-inch oyster can produce twice as many.
  • Oyster gardening heps restore oyster populations in the waterways in which they are grown because they spawn before the foundation collects and transplants them onto a sanctuary reef.

Learn about Virginia's oyster restoration programs at:

Learn where you can drop off oyster shells for reef restoration at

Your shells are used as homes for baby oysters; recycled shells are placed in tanks of water with oyster larvae swimming and attaching to the shells; after a few days, the spat-on-shell is used to build a new oyster bar, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foudation's website.

Source: Chesapeake Bay Foundation;

Upcoming spring oyster fairs
If you want to learn to oyster garden or you are just curious about the pastime, here are some upcoming events you may want to attend:

May 12
The Tidewater Oyster Gardening Association-sponsored  Annual Spring Oyster Fairs will be held for the Middle Peninsula on May 12, and for the Northern Neck on June 2. 
The Middle Peninsula Fair will be at Christchurch School, 49 Seahorse Lane, Christchurch, VA 23031. The school is just east of Saluda off Route 33. The agenda includes:

8:30 a.m.:  Registration begins, (coffee and Danish)

8:30-9:30 a.m.: Vendors of oyster gardening equipment, spat and supplies are invited to display their wares for sale. Spat availability, both diploid and triploid, is dependent upon winter mortality.  Also a good time to question Master Oyster Gardeners about your gardening issues.

9:30-9:40 a.m.: Remarks by the TOGA President and introduction of speakers.

9:40-10:40 a.m.: Educational program begins- Dr. Ryan Carnegie of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science describes his extensive research and findings concerning the recent evolution of disease resistance in the Chesapeake Bay's natural (wild) oyster population.  As a primer, you are invited to download and read his 2011 paper (Declining impact of an introduced pathogen: Haplosporidium nelsoni in the oyster Crassostrea virginica in Chesapeake Bay, Ryan B. Carnegie, Eugene M. Burreson). 

A link to this article is at under the Spring Oyster Fairs announcement.

10:40-11 a.m .: Better Safe than Sorry- Dr. Lynton Land (TOGA Board Member)  discusses the presence of bacteria in Bay waters. 

11 a.m.: The meeting adjourns and a short break follows an optional viewing of the 59-minute video "Who Killed Crassostrea virginica? The Fall & Rise of Chesapeake Bay Oysters."  Producer/Writer/Director: Michael W. Fincham. The video is related to Dr. Carnegie's talk.
June 2
The Northern Neck Fair will be at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (435 East Church Street, Kilmarnock), the same place as the last few years. The church is located on VA 200 at the north end of town on the west side of the road across from Bluff Point Road.
Vendors will be available to sell oyster spat (both diploid and triploid) and equipment before and after the meeting, beginning at about 8 a.m. Spat availability is dependent upon winter mortality. Also a good time to question Master Oyster Gardeners about your gardening issues. The meeting itself will begin at 9 a.m.; coffee and Danish will be provided.

9- 9:10 a.m.: Remarks by the TOGA President and introduction of speakers.

9:10-10:10 a.m.: Educational program begins- Dr. Ryan Carnegie of VIMS

10:10-10:30 a.m.: Dr. Lynton Land, TOGA board member.

10:30 a.m.: Meeting adjourns.  MOGs stay  to discuss "How to etc."

Learn more about TOGA at