Today at the Port of Baltimore, a 100-yard barge will pick-up and transport over 50 train cars of fossilized oyster shell – the new home for “spats-on-shell” baby oysters. The substrate of shell is coming from the Gulf of Mexico to the Chesapeake Bay courtesy of CSX freight trains. It’s just the first of dozens of trips from a quarry where 125,000 cubic yards of shell awaits this transplantation.
Native Marylander and CSX executive Michael Ward will announce the campaign with Governor Martin O’Malley in what is the largest oyster restoration project in the history of the Bay.
Governor O’Malley, who personally committed to bringing oysters back to the Bay, was joined by more than 100 partners for a first-hand look at approximately 2,750 tons of fossilized oyster shell en route by barge to Harris Creek near the Choptank River. Today’s barge load was the first shipment of material from a Florida quarry that will be used to rebuild habitat in two Maryland oyster sanctuaries, made possible through an exciting new partnership with CSX.
Over the next nine months, CSX will transport 112,500 tons of the fossilized shell by train – at cost – to complete planned reef restoration in Harris Creek and make major progress on similar efforts in the Little Choptank. The gift is said to be worth $2 million while the state is also supporting restoration with another $2 million.
“Innovative programs and partnerships like these are making our record investments in restoration, aquaculture, stewardship and enforcement possible,” said Governor O’Malley in a statement. “Thanks to our friends at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, we today welcome CSX to Maryland’s oyster restoration family. Through their generous contribution we are moving our essential sanctuary work forward – work that is bringing our native oyster back to the Chesapeake Bay.”
With a lack of natural, affordable shell currently available to support restoration of the 377-acre Harris Creek sanctuary, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and its partners found the quality and quantity of the next best thing – fossilized shell – for purchase from Gulf Coast Aggregates near Carrabelle, Florida. To address the challenge and expense of moving the large volume of material, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation negotiated an agreement with CSX to transport the shell at cost.
“The restoration of the Chesapeake Bay oyster beds is critical for this region’s environment and economy – oystering is truly a way of life here in Maryland,” says Michael Ward, chairman, president and chief executive officer, CSX. “CSX is proud to be a part of this visionary public-private partnership to help restore one of our nation’s greatest natural assets.”
David O’Neill is VP of Conservation and helped bring together the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s partnership with CSX. He says the public-private collaboration has provided an opportunity to help accelerate oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. “Connecting CSX’s transportation services with the great work of the State of Maryland and its partners, including the Oyster Recovery Partnership, is another example of how public and private interests can work together to take a significant step toward a healthy Bay ecosystem.” O’Neill lives in the area and is a sailor as well as active in ecology and understands the biology of the oyster.
The University of Maryland’s lab at Horne Point is actively researching ways to bring juvenile oyster to the new oyster bed.