Maryland harvests record breaking 94,000 bushels of farm raised oysters

It’s not just Maryland crabs that delight the palate, the state’s oysters are popular too and farmers on the water are doing their part to satisfy the demand.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reports that Maryland’s aquaculture operations produced 94,286 bushels in 2023 — a record high, even though the number is just slightly larger than what was brought in the year before — 94,257. The 2023 yield is more than four times higher than the 22,428 bushels harvested in 2013.

The state’s oyster aquaculture harvest is small in comparison to the public fishery, which took in 722,850 bushels in the 2022-2023 season.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources said shellfish aquaculture is growing steadily in the state and farm-raised oysters are available year round.

The farm-raised oysters make up about 16% of the total yield, but the business’ economic impact is more than $13 million a year.

“Though the shellfish aquaculture harvest is small in comparison to the public fishery, it is growing steadily and the farmer’s product is available throughout the year,” said Brian Callam, director of DNR’s Aquaculture and Industry Enhancement Division.

Public fisheries also had a great season last year and showed promising growth in their populations. The natural resources department’s most recent survey found nearly 87 spat — what baby oysters are called — per bushel. That’s almost quadruple the median spat per bushel over the last 39 years.

It’s clear that things have vastly improved from just 20 years ago, when disease and death meant watermen harvested just 26,000 bushels of oysters. For state leaders, it’s a success story, and an indication that conservation efforts and restrictions are working.

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Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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