Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do with my cage in the winter when the creek freezes over?

Simply adjust the line and lower your cages until they are just above the bottom, but not on it. The oysters must be totally under water at all times for the oysters to survive. Your oysters will not freeze as long as they are in the water. If they are exposed to the frigid air they can die.

Do I need to feed my oysters?

No. Oysters eat algae and the Bay provides it for them.

I can't see any spat? Did I get blank shells

Spat from the hatchery are very small and may not be readily visible. Let them grow about a month or two and they will be larger and easier to see. If by then you still don't see any spat let us know.

What if my oyster cage becomes heavily fouled?

Scrub your cage with a brush (no detergent or soap) and dip it in the water or hose it down. This accumulation of fouling organisms (similar to what grows on your piling) is normal but can accumulate and become a nuisance. It can make your cage very heavy.

Will the fouling growth hurt the spat?

No. The growth on the cage wire won't hurt the spat. It will simply make the cage heavier. As long as the wire mesh of the cage is at least 50% open for water flow the oysters will receive plenty of water. In other words the cage could be about 50% closed up due to fouling and still the spat will be ok. But please tend the cages and keep them from getting this fouled.

When will the oysters be collected?

The oysters will be collected near the end of May into early June, about 9 months after you receive them. This time period avoids the heavy fouling that would occur if you continued tending the cages through the summer.

Will the oysters I grow be moved away from my river or do they stay here?

For most tributaries, the oysters will stay in your river, planted in a local sanctuary. If you are in a creek off the river, your oysters will be moved to the main river for planting because small creeks and coves rarely have suitable bottom for planting oysters. For a few tributaries, your oysters will be moved to an adjacent river because there is no sanctuary yet in your river.

Why are my spat growing so slowly?

Slow growth could be due to silt, low salinity, or low temperatures. If the young oysters (spat) are stressed by high amounts of silt, growth can be stunted. Rinsing the oysters more often will help. If the salinity of the water is very low due to abundant rainfall, the spat may not grow very well. In this case, the only remedy is for there to be less rain. Also, your spat may grow slowly simply because it is cold – water temperatures below about 50 degrees reduce growth dramatically.

Can I eat the oysters I grow?

No. First, the oysters are not safe to eat because they grow close to the shoreline. The oyster seafood industry is highly regulated and waters where oysters are harvested are carefully monitored to ensure that the seafood is safe for human consumption. Second, the oysters are too small to harvest after only one year in your cages. Finally, this project was created to enhance the oyster population​ so all the oysters will be planted in a sanctuary.

What do I do if I can no longer care for the oysters and want them removed?

Please contact the Department of Natural Resources by emailing​ with your request.

Dear Marylander,

Thank you for agreeing to be part of our Marylanders Grow Oysters project, an exciting way to create and develop a living, diverse, oyster reef community. Through your action and commitment, you are providing an important head start during the first year of life for these vulnerable oysters until they are large enough to be planted on a local sanctuary.

Not only will more oysters be placed in the Chesapeake Bay as a result of your efforts, but rejuvenated oyster reefs will naturally become vital underwater ecosystems for a rich diversity of aquatic life.

Working together, we can make real our vision for bringing about a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future all of us prefer – both for ourselves, and for future generations.

Good luck and thank you again for working to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, and to set a vital example of stewardship for our fellow Marylanders.