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Relief Effort Sees Oysters Thriving In Chesapeake Bay After Freshwater Threat

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Between the Key Bridge and Fort Carroll Island, there is a man-made oyster reef that was laid down in 2017 by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The reef was made using old oyster shells to carry three million baby oysters called spat, into the Patapsco River.

Almost microscopically small, multiple spat attach to each shell. A survey in November found that 82 percent were still alive.

"We were pleasantly surprised," said Allison Colden, CBF's Marine Fisheries Scientist. "to not only see the majority of them alive but also to see a couple of small oyster spat, which are indicative of reproduction happening."

New life isn't the only good sign. Not after what the bay has been through.

A spring, summer, and fall of record rainfall brought fresh water surging into the bay.

"It's a shock effect on the whole bay," said waterman, Michael Eber. "From being salt water into fresh water and the creatures living in it- they can't stand a chance."

In the summer, it was dead and decaying clams, it was feared oysters would be next. At least on this one bed in the Patapsco.

"We were expecting there to be a higher mortality," said Colden. "So we were excited to see that didn't result in a large mortality event."

Other areas are reporting similar findings.

"We dodged a bullet in terms of really high mortality in some places," said Colden. "But the oysters are growing more slowly than they normally would have."

In a bay that had more fresh water than normal.

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