A Blue View: Oyster Gardens

Published May 19, 2015

Hidden just beneath the surface of the Inner Harbor in five distinct locations is a new type of garden: an oyster garden.

These installations are the product of the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership, a collaboration between the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, local businesses and area schools. 

It’s all part of a plan to restore the Inner Harbor—a vision that requires clean water, which is where oysters come in. Oysters are filter feeders, filtering the water to find food while simultaneously removing harmful excess nutrients from the water. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.

Unfortunately, today’s oyster population is estimated to be only 2 percent of its original level, so its purification power is significantly weaker than it once was. That’s why the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership is working to replenish the oysters in an effort to clean up the water in the harbor.

The initiative designated five oyster garden zones around the Inner Harbor: two between the piers of the Inner Harbor, one next to the Rusty Scupper, one at the downtown sailing center and one around Fells Point. Each oyster garden consists of 15 cages, with each cage containing 400 to 500 baby oysters, also known as spat. In addition to filtering the water, these oyster reefs become microhabitats for native Chesapeake Bay creatures like fish, eels, mud crabs and grass shrimp.

oyster recovery map

The harbor’s oyster gardens are maintained by about 150 volunteers from downtown businesses, city schools and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. They gather once a month to pull the cages from the water and scrub away algae growth, maintaining a clean and healthy habitat for the oysters. In the spring, after nine months of growing, the oysters are transported to the Fort Carroll Oyster Sanctuary, and the project starts all over again in the fall.

To learn more about what the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore is doing to restore the Inner Harbor, click here

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