University of Maryland Extension

Maryland Sea Grant Hosts Nova Scotia Shellfish Farmers

Representatives from the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia stand in front of a mound of aged oyster shells, which the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery will use to produce spat-on-shell.
Image Credit: 
Don Webster

Maryland oyster growers got the chance this summer to engage in shoptalk across an international border. Shellfish farmers from the Canadian province of Nova Scotia visited the state in July for a series workshops and field visits with their peers from the Chesapeake Bay.  

The workshops were organized by Don Webster and Don Meritt, shellfish aquaculture specialists with the University of Maryland's Sea Grant Extension Program. The purpose of the four-day event was to give the representatives from Nova Scotia an introduction to the aquaculture industry here -- and to encourage the sharing of information between the industries in Canada and the United States.  

Canadian growers, who work in the frequently iced-over waters off the east coast of Canada, have a lot more in common with Maryland aquaculture entrepreneurs than you would think. Both raise the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica), which grows along the East and Gulf coasts of North America.

The workshops consisted of two days of classroom lectures and hands-on activities at the Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge. After, the Nova Scotian shellfish farmers spent another two days touring aquaculture operations on both the Eastern and western shores of the Chesapeake. There, they saw the variety of ways that Marylanders culture and process oysters. The two groups also got the chance to swap ideas on how best to cultivate the shellfish and to learn about ways they might increase their profits by promoting oysters to the public.

"I have a lot of ideas that I'm going to take back home," said Charles Purdy, who grows oysters and quahog clams in Malagash, Nova Scotia.

During their visit, the Canadian delegation also toured the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery located at the Horn Point Laboratory. This hatchery produces billions of oyster larvae and hundreds of millions of spat-on-shell every year for use in both aquaculture and for restoring wild populations of oysters. At the facility, the group watched male and female oysters in the act of spawning. They also met with the hatchery crew as they completed the various tasks entailed in churning out all those young oysters.  

The Horn Point Oyster Hatchery is run in partnership with a wide network of organizations and government agencies, including the Oyster Recovery Partnership, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and NOAA.  

 The workshop with the Canadians, "went very, very well," Webster says. "I think they were very impressed with what Maryland has been able to do, and our growers were impressed with their operations, too."

Learn more about oyster aquaculture and the services available for shellfish growers in the state of Maryland by visiting the aquaculture web pages of the University of Maryland Extension program and the Maryland Sea Grant Extension program.

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