Baltimore, Maryland shares two things in common that at a first glance, appear to be completely unrelated: T. Rowe Price and oysters. The former is a brokerage firm that transformed how stocks and bonds were sold to consumers, has been in business for 80 years and currently manages over $900 billion in assets. The latter is native to Baltimore’s harbors and Chesapeake Bay, and in fact, was once one of the city’s dominant industries during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But Maryland’s oyster population has been decimated for decades, which is one reason why the state is now known more for its blue crab.
Now, T. Rowe Price employees have the opportunity to volunteer on a project that aims to revive the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population.
They worked with the Great Baltimore Oyster Partnership, a multi-stakeholder effort that brings various residents together to raise baby oysters in the city’s famous Inner Harbor and transfer them to a protected marine sanctuary in the Patapsco River, one of the bay’s most important estuaries.
The project is critical to the Chesapeake Bay’s long-term health, as agricultural runoff and real estate development have damaged ecosystems across the region. Maryland’s famous blue crab is just one example of a local fishery that has come under threat, but the combination of environmental protection and consumer awareness has allowed this creature (and favorite meal during summertime) to recover slowly in recent years.
T. Rowe Price’s work with the Oyster Partnership pays dividends beyond completing some of the grunt work necessary to help oysters reappear and hopefully thrive in the Chesapeake in the near future. The project’s leaders hope these employees can be part of a growing base of “citizen scientists” who can help spread the word of the Chesapeake’s challenges and how bivalves such as oysters can improve the bay’s health.
Scientists generally agree that oysters are key to improving biodiversity and water quality within marine ecosystems as one of these creatures can filter up to 50 gallons a day.
Similar coastal ecosystems restoration efforts are underway up north in New England, where some 3-D ocean farms are raising both mollusks and seaweed – which on one hand, not only produce a sustainable source of food, but also help maintain and improve the health of marine ecosystems.
The process of raising these oysters starts in the fall, when baby oysters, or “spat,” are implanted on oyster shells and placed into cages at various locations across the Inner Harbor. Depending on need, T. Rowe Price volunteers periodically visit and clean the cages, while also removing algae and sediment to ensure that the young oysters gain the required amount of of food, sunlight, and oxygen. By late spring, the oysters are ready to be moved to their new home in the Patapsco River.
As a result, T. Rowe Price employees have contributed to the Oyster Partnership’s work in raising at least 270,000 oysters since 2013. “Creating a healthy Inner Harbor will continue to be an uphill battle,” said Shannon Cuffley, one T. Rowe Price employee who helps with this oyster gardening program. “In the wild, the oyster success rate is only 1%. Within this program, the success rate is 70-80%.”
Image credit: T. Rowe Price