Though the Chesapeake Bay is only an occasional thought for most that live in the District, our day-to-day lives here play a huge role in the health of the Bay’s ecosystems. Everything we place into streams, rivers, creeks, and sewers eventually finds its way into the Chesapeake, and many of these things are causing the growth of the numerous “dead zones” in the northern half of the Bay. These dead zones occur because of hypoxia, or water that has too little oxygen to support life, and are the product of a harshly unbalanced ecosystem.
The Bay is known for its crabs and rockfish, but its oysters make it possible for all these other animals to survive. By filtering water through their shells in search of food, they also clean the water of any unnatural chemicals. Hundreds of years ago, before the widespread harvest of the Bay’s oysters, the billions upon billions of shellfish were able to filter all of the Chesapeake’s water in a matter of hours. Now the job takes about three years to complete. Clearly, the now-dwindling number of oysters cannot handle the job at hand, and the situation can only worse as the Capitol’s suburbs grow and leech more and more toxins into the watershed.
However, there is hope for the Chesapeake! A group call the Oyster Recovery Partnership is working to reintroduce the shellfish into protected oyster reefs established throughout the Bay. In 2009 alone they have planted some 500 million oysters spread over an area of 300 acres. Thought the numbers seem impressive, the Partnership is still far from their goal of reintroducing the shellfish to Maryland’s 275,000 acres of oyster grounds. The only possible way for this to happen is with great public support through donations and volunteering. Giving the program a tax-deductible donation of $25 will help with habitat restoration efforts, fund the Partnership’s research and education initiatives, as well as plant hundreds of oysters. Becoming a volunteer is also encouraged, as public involvement is the best way to get the word out about the Bay’s sad state.
Note: There are many worthwhile organizations that work to address various environmental concerns. From time to time, we will highlight some that we think may not be as known to the general public. The Oyster Recovery Partnership is one such organization.