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Record Number Of Baby Oysters Placed In Bay

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A bag of 1,000 baby oysters, or spat, is put in a mesh bag before being placed in one of seven oyster floats.
Norfolk District, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers: http://www.flickr.com/photos/armyengineersnorfolk/6286169279/
A bag of 1,000 baby oysters, or spat, is put in a mesh bag before being placed in one of seven oyster floats.

This year, 880 million baby oysters came out of the University of Maryland's Horn Point Lab. The bi-valves were raised in giant two-story vats and fed by computer-controlled algae farms.

Around 500 million of the young oysters, called spat, were given to oyster sanctuaries. Another 200 million spat were used to train watermen, who previously caught wild oysters, to grow their own using aquaculture.

It's a tough life for an oyster these days. "About half the oysters we put out, on average, die after the first year," says Michael Roman, director of the Horn Point Lab.

"They're covered by sediment, they're eaten by predators, and they die of these two prolific diseases we have," he says.

The blights, introduced into Chesapeake Bay from abroad and pollution, have kept them from coming back after 200 years of overharvesting.

So even though hundreds of millions of baby oysters are being put back into the bay, the species is still at a fraction of its historical levels.

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