T. Rowe Price Supports Oyster Recovery Project in Baltimore

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - When we think of marine animal lif​e​, we often get pictures of huge cetaceans and fish schools, both of which are threatened by predatory industrial practices. But the humble, less photogenic oysters, essential to filter sea water, have also been negatively impacted by human activity. Zoom in on Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia​,​ where in the 19th century the oyster population was large enough to filter the entire bay every three days. But these days it takes them over a year to do that because of over-harvesting and habitat loss.

Enter the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership, which has been working to improve water quality and increase the local oyster population with the help of volunteers, including 30 T. Rowe Associates who, during a period of nine months, have helped maintain 20 cages full of thousands of baby oysters to ensure their survival to maturity.

Ba​b​y oysters are called spat and begin to grow on the recycled shells of adult oysters in the autumn, when those shells are put into cages. Filled with thousands of spats, the cages are put into one of the Oyster Gardens in the Inner Harbor and hung close to the surface so they can receive enough sunlight, oxygen, and water flow.

The projects keeps seven gardens across Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, each one with 20 cages. The cages need to be cleaned and excess algae and sediment need to be removed every two weeks so they can get the food, sunlight and oxygen required for their proper development. In the winter, volunteers have less work as oyster gardens need less maintenance​ as less algae grows.​

After that, around May and June​, ​the oysters are ready for their release and taken to a sanctuary in Fort Carroll, Maryland where they are monitored by the Coast Guard to ensure their safety. Since the program was launched in 2013, volunteers have helped raise more than 270,000 oysters. For the 2017 oyster gardening season, T. Rowe Price associates helped raise over 19,000 oysters.

One of the advantages of the gardening program is that it increases the success rate of growing oysters, which in the wild is only one percent against 70 to 80 percent under the auspices of volunteers.

Kevin Shea, a senior manager in T. Rowe Price’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) says they are focused on oysters "because they are an essential ingredient in filtering harmful pollution, and very few oysters remain due to pollution and over-harvesting. A fully grown oyster filters up to 50 gallons of water per day.”​

Image credit: T. Rowe Price