As part of a commitment to help rebuild the Chesapeake Bay oyster population, Perdue Farms Chairman Jim Perdue presented $50,000 to the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program. Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Joe Gill and Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance accepted the contribution, which will help fund citizen stewardship oyster projects throughout the state. Perdue was able to make this donation through a partnership with CBS EcoMedia.
"Marylanders Grow Oysters works not only to rebuild our oyster population and its vital ecological functions, but also to cultivate stewardship among growers and young student participants," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "We are fortunate to have Perdue Farms, a prominent member of our agriculture community, and their partners, participating at this level to help us continue our efforts to rebuild our oyster population and restore the Chesapeake Bay."
Also participating in today's event at Annapolis City Dock were Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen; CBS EcoMedia President and Founder Paul Polizzotto; Director of Education at the Annapolis, Md., Maritime Museum Josh Falk; Director at NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office Peyton Robertson; representatives from the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program; and local youth who participate in the program through the Annapolis Maritime Museum.
As part of the celebration, the middle school students, taking part in an environmental program hosted by the Annapolis Maritime Museum, measured spat, collected water quality data, and learned about oyster ecology and industry. This year-long oyster restoration project is the largest educational participant in Marylanders Grow Oysters.
The Perdue funding will go to support several projects in Maryland tributaries, providing new cages, spat to stock cages and enhance sanctuary sites, transportation of spat and cages, and signage for participants' piers. The event comes one month after Perdue volunteers helped fill cages with spat in Easton and loaded them for delivery to local to growers for the program's annual season kickoff.
The goal of the Marylanders Grow Oysters program is to help protect young oysters during their vulnerable first year of life, so they may be planted on local sanctuaries where the oysters enrich the ecosystem and the oyster population. To increase citizen involvement and encourage stewardship, the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program has expanded from one tributary and 170 growers in 2008, to 1,800 growers in 30 rivers and creeks ─ engaging as many as 5,000 citizen stewards. Together these volunteers have grown 6 million oysters, all of which are planted in protected waters.