The guest speaker for our April 17th member’s dinner meeting was Heather Lockwood. Heather works for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as their Virginia Oyster Restoration Specialist. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science from the Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina and a Masters in Environmental Science and Policy from John Hopkins University. According to Heather, her favorite spot in the Bay is the Lafayette River because since 2014 she’s been able to witness the amazing capabilities our oysters have on improving water quality, providing habitat and bringing communities together for one common goal; a saved bay. The Lafayette River was actually the first tributary in Virginia to meet the oyster metrics for a restored river in October 2018. Heather and the oyster restoration team are now headed to the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach.
Heather presented a power point presentation covering various aspects of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), the overall health of the bay and the mission of the CBF to save the bay through education, restoration and advocacy. She described the Chesapeake Bay watershed which contains 64,000 square miles, 19 major rivers, 3,000 species of plants and animals and over 18 million people. She also included a brief history of oysters on the Nansemond River, a lesson on oyster anatomy and the oyster’s life cycle.
Heather finished her presentation with a detailed explanation of the CBF’s Oyster Shell Recycling Program. The program turns 3,000 bushels of empty shells a year into habitat for millions of oysters planted in Virginia waterways. There are restaurants that participate in the program along with individuals. There are drop-off locations for used shells at public drop-off bins across Virginia. There are currently two drop-off locations in Suffolk. One is a bin located near the boat ramp at Bennett’s Creek Park, 3000 Bennett’s Creek Road and the other is located at the River Stone Chophouse, 8032 Harbour View Blvd. Once the oysters have been consumed, the shells are dropped off at a collection site in one of the provided 5 gallon buckets. Volunteers pick up the shells and take them to the CBF’s Virginia Oyster Restoration Center. The shells then undergo a deep cleaning at the shell washing station. Once the shells are cleaned they are then cured in the sunlight for 6-12 months. After curing, the shells are placed in setting tanks filled with water and oyster larvae. The larvae attach themselves to the shells, becoming baby oysters, called spat. The oysters are then transported to a sanctuary reef to live. The reefs are protected from harvesting and will be a safe place for the oysters to continue to grow, providing vital habitat for other species. After a year, the oysters are considered mature and will begin reproducing. Although the oysters planted by the CBF aren’t harvested, their babies could land on a harvestable area and then a dinner plate!