"This is an alternative way to keep oystermen oystering and watermen on the water,"
Tommy Leggett, an oyster specialist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation environmental group.
The painstaking work of oyster restoration continued one splash at a time this week as volunteers emptied mesh bags of the baby shellfish into the York River.
"This is an alternative way to keep oystermen oystering and watermen on the water," said Tommy Leggett, an oyster specialist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation environmental group.
Volunteers scattered the oysters while Leggett maneuvered a foundation oyster boat, named Chesapeake Gold, over a half-acre patch of river bottom 10 miles upriver from the Coleman Bridge.
In just a few minutes, the crew tossed out about 2 million baby oysters. They face an uncertain future amid marauding cow-nosed rays and rampant oyster diseases that have caused the collapse of Virginia's once-mighty oyster industry.
But, as Leggett pointed out, these oysters, at least, have a head start.
To begin with, the fingernail-size "spat" were the offspring of two strains of native oysters bred to withstand damage from disease-causing parasites Dermo and MSX.
The babies were rendered sterile for another measure of protection. The condition allows them to quickly reach market size before the diseases have time to kill. As another precaution, the spat were allowed to attach to 200 bushels of natural oyster shells while soaking in nursery tanks. The 3and 4-inch-long shells make it harder for the predatory rays to scarf up the babies like popcorn.