Chesapeake Beach Oyster Cultivation Society (CBOCS)
Chesapeake Beach Oyster Cultivation Society
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In 2011, the Town of Chesapeake Beach partnered with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program to provide a fun and collaborative opportunity for the citizens and businesses of Chesapeake Beach to help improve local water quality and their knowledge of the Bay ecosystem, while assisting with national, state and private efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay through oyster cultivation and oyster reef restoration.
Following proven models developed by the Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society (SMOCS), MGO and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Beach Oyster Cultivation Society (CBOCS) relies on citizen volunteers to grow oysters in cages from their piers and the town’s Railway Trail Boardwalk along Fishing Creek. The cages protect the vulnerable baby oysters (spat) from larger predators until their shells have grown thick enough to keep them safe. After growing for 9-10 months in the cages, the yearling oysters are released, or planted, on local reefs in designated oyster sanctuaries where they will continue to grow, reproduce and help sustain wild oyster populations and help return balance to the Bay’s ecosystem.
Why are oysters (Crassostrea virginica) important?
Oysters clean the water through filter feeding. A single adult oyster can filter 50 gallons of water per day removing phytoplankton, pollutants and microorganisms from the water. This process reduces the likelihood of anoxic (oxygen depleted) zones in the Bay and results in greater water clarity, allowing light to reach important underwater plants.
A Buoyant Oyster Cultivation System cage (BOCS). For a hands on view, stop by Town Hall to see one on display in the lobby...
Oysters provide food and shelter for hundreds of species. Like a coral reef, an oyster reef provides a complex three-dimensional habitat that hundreds of estuarine species use, directly or indirectly, for food and shelter. For example, gobies and skilletfish use oyster reefs as their primary habitat, while blue crabs and striped bass visit oyster reefs to breed, find food and/or hide from predators.
Oysters are good for the economy. Until recent decades, oysters supported a thriving shellfish industry in the Bay region. Steps being taken today to reduce water pollution, manage harvests, combat disease, restore wild populations, and encourage oyster aquaculture hold promise for an oyster renaissance.
Oyster reefs attract some of the highest densities of fish of any type of habitat in the Bay, helping to sustain vibrant recreational fisheries.
How it is done: Spat (baby oysters) and cages, delivered in late August or
A DNR Oyster cage
September, are placed under Fishing Creek boardwalk, or under participant's private piers. After growing for 9-10 months the yearling oysters are ready to be planted on local oyster reefs by CBOCS participants, and then the cycle begins anew.
Time Commitment: Approximately two half-days during summer, by all CBOCS participants, to: 1) help refill oyster gardens with new spat on shell, and 2) remove yearling oysters from cages and plant them on local reefs. We'll also need help in early spring and late fall to help weatherize the BOCSes under the boardwalk. There are other opportunities to help out as well throughout the year by serving on a CBOCS committee (See Committees link above.).
General Schedule of Activities
Yearling oysters planted on local oyster reefs.
Spat on shell delivered. Oyster cages refilled and deployed to boardwalk and private piers.
Who can participate? CBOCS is a volunteer organization sponsored by the Town of Chesapeake Beach. Everyone is welcome to participate, especially the residents, students and businesses of Chesapeake Beach.
How can you help? Register to participate! Individuals, families, businesses and organizations can offer their time and/or agree to sponsor a BOCS to grow oysters. You can grow oysters from your pier, using a self-cleaning Bouyant Oyster Cultivation System (BOCS) or a Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) cage, and help plant them in local oyster reefs. Don’t have a pier or water access? That’s okay. The town will provide growing space below the Railway Trail boardwalk in Fishing Creek.
Types of Oyster Cages -- There are two types of cages that are used by CBOCS participants to grow oysters. They are:
Buoyant Oyster Cultivation System (BOCS)
Only BOCS may be used along Fishing Creek boardwalk.
May be used along private piers as well.
Not suitable for open Bay piers due to wave action.
Cost: $500, plus $30 tax. The $500 is eligible for full tax credit on Maryland taxes. After the tax credit the real cost to you is $30. MD tax credit form
The Town is also exploring grant options to purchase BOCS cages.
Must be weatherized twice per year (late fall and early spring; ~20 min/unit/occasion)
MGO oyster cage (rectangular, 12”x12”x18”)
Suitable for use on private piers, not on Fishing Creek boardwalk
Suitable for open waters, such as Bay piers.
Cages must be manually shaken once per week to remove silt from spat.
Local CBOCS Sponsors -- The following local businesses, schools and associations have generously sponsored the purchase of Buoyant Oyster Cultivation Devices (BOCSes) for use in the program:
Beach Elementary School
Richfield Station Homeowners Association
The Bay Business Group
Chesapeake Beach Garden Club
Chesapeake Station Homeowners Association
In addition, CBOCS secured a grant from the Chesapeake Bay Trust for the purchase of four BOCSes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are spat? Spat is a life stage of the oyster during which they transition from mobile larva to “fixed” organisms attached to hard surfaces where they continue to grow into mature oysters.
Where are the spat grown? The spat are grown in cages for 9-10 months from your pier, or below the Railroad Trail boardwalk in Fishing Creek if you do not have a pier.
Where are yearling oysters released? The yearling oysters will be released in designated oyster sanctuaries under the guidance of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A suitable planting site has already been identified in the Bay just offshore from Chesapeake Beach; the location is known as Old Rock. CBOCS is also exploring Fishing Creek planting options. However, oysters must be planted on a hard substrate or their likelihood of survival is very small. So given Fishing Creek’s muddy bottom, it is unclear at this time if a suitable solution will be found to allow oysters to be planted there.
Do I need to purchase a BOCS, or have a pier to participate? No. There are a variety of ways to participate in CBOCS without purchasing a BOCS or having a pier. Primarily we need people willing to donate their time and energy to help maintain the program. For example, we need your help receiving and deploying spat in the fall, planting yearling oysters in the spring, weatherizing BOCSes annually, or there are a variety of committees to help out with as well.
Are there any schools involved in CBOCS? Yes. Beach Elementary School is an active partner in CBOCS and is currently incorporating aspects of oyster restoration into their environmental curriculum for fifth graders.
For more information on oyster gardening and restoration, visit these sites:
Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society (SMOCS): www.smocs.org
DNR’s Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO): www.oysters.maryland.gov
Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF): www.cbf.org
Marylanders Grow Oysters -- oyster care flier
Contact CBOCS: CBOCS@chesapeake-beach.md.us
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