Researchers from NCCOS are working to develop a growth curve for bottom grown Chesapeake Bay oysters that will help calibrate the Farm Aquaculture Resource Management (FARM) model. This calibration, combined with an existing one for container grown oysters, will be used to describe potential harvest and nutrient removal by both farmed oysters and restored oyster reefs in Chesapeake Bay, an important oyster ecosystem service.
In August 2022, divers from NCCOS and Maryland Department of Natural Resources collected nearly 700 one and two-year-old oysters from two collection sites in the Tred Avon River, and relocated them closer to the pier of the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory. The team also purchased 0-year-old oysters from Horn Point Nursery. Each month, the team will sample 25 oysters from each of the three cohorts (0, 1 and 2 year), in addition to taking water samples. Oysters will be weighed, shucked, and dried in order to collect data necessary to develop the three-year growth curve, which represents the duration of a Chesapeake Bay bottom oyster aquaculture cycle.
Incorporating this growth curve into the FARM model will facilitate application of the oyster tissue best management practice, approved by the Chesapeake Bay Program, allowing nutrient crediting for oyster bioextractive removal by both container grown and bottom grown oysters, as part of watershed implementation plans to address required nutrient reductions in nutrient impacted waterbodies. A similar project is proposed in South Carolina. Both projects will contribute to further development of this concept in estuaries that need additional nutrient management and support oyster aquaculture.