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MSU-Maryland Partner to Grow State’s Oyster Aquaculture Industry

Department of Commerce Grant Supports Oyster Hatchery at Morgan’s PEARL

Oyster Hatchery 2Morgan State University has received a $150,000 grant from the Maryland Department of Commerce to produce oyster larvae and spat for Maryland oyster farmers at a hatchery operated by Morgan’s Patuxent Aquatic and Environmental Research Laboratory (PEARL). The grant will be used to restart production at the hatchery to support Maryland’s oyster industry in the short term and potentially to create commercial hatcheries in the state in the long term.

“The oyster aquaculture industry in Maryland is new, vital, ambitious and innovative, but it is also hamstrung by a shortage of immature oysters — larvae and spat — to support its growth,” said Victor McCrary, Ph.D., vice president, Research & Economic Development at Morgan. “This grant will assist in making Maryland oyster farmers, who are increasingly at a disadvantage to Virginia farmers due to Virginia’s higher production and increased demand, more competitive in the region.”

Oyster hatcheries play a central role in creating a reliable supply of oyster larvae and/or oyster spat for use by industry. Nearly 50 years ago, it was the development of hatchery technologies on the U.S. Pacific Coast that opened the door to the sustainable farming of oysters, rather than the traditional reliance on the vagaries of nature to furnish wild spat for farmers. The advent of hatcheries also paved the way for selective breeding and development of particular genetic lineages of oysters that feature superior characteristics for farming applications.

Oyster Hacthery 1Virginia now has six large-scale commercial hatcheries and two research hatcheries. In comparison, Maryland has no commercial hatcheries and one state-run production hatchery, at Horn Point. Only a limited amount of the Horn Point production is allocated for sale to oyster farmers. The rest is planted within an extensive system of oyster sanctuaries and other sponsored projects. In this climate, Maryland aquaculture farmers are becoming increasingly desperate for sources of oyster larvae and spat needed to grow their businesses.

The MSU PEARL is located near the Patuxent River — part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed — in Saint Leonard, Md. The mission of the laboratory is to provide the community with the knowledge to solve its environmental challenges through research, education and economic development. MSU PEARL applies interdisciplinary approaches to studying the connections between complex ecological systems. Founded in 1967 by The Academy of Natural Sciences and originally located in Benedict, Md., the laboratory moved to its current facility in St. Leonard in 1994 and became part of Morgan State University in September 2004.

Morgan State University, founded in 1867, is a Carnegie-classified doctoral research institution offering more than 60 academic programs leading to bachelor’s degrees as well as programs at the master’s and doctoral levels. As Maryland’s public urban research university, Morgan serves a multiethnic and multiracial student body and seeks to ensure that the doors of higher education are opened as wide as possible to as many as possible. For more information about Morgan State University, visit www.morgan.edu.

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For more information about research to grow Maryland’s Aquaculture Industry, contact Dr. Victor McCrary, vice president, Research & Economic Development at 443-885-4631 or victor.mccrary@morgan.edu or Clinton R. Coleman, MSU Public Relations at 443-885-3022.

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