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Patuxent Environmental & Aquatic Research Laboratory

Shellfish Aquaculture


HatcheryOyster aquaculture has been rising in the Chesapeake Bay region with the 2010 Maryland 10-Point Oyster Restoration Plan being a major catalyst. Chesapeake tributaries were opened to oyster aquaculture in 2007. The state's efforts to expand aquaculture in the Bay resulted in a 14-fold increase in annual aquaculture oyster harvest since 2012. Despite the popularity gain of oyster aquaculture in Maryland, the industry is still very new and facing challenges.

Morgan State realizes that the development of an industry does not rely solely on increased production and must encompass all components of the industry. For aquaculture, this includes everything from hatcheries to marketing, regulation and technology. Critical issues the industry face include policy and regulatory framework, technical skill and technology transfer, infrastructure and markets. In an effort to support oyster aquaculture in Maryland, Morgan State University Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory (MSU PEARL) developed an Aquaculture Program in 2008. The Aquaculture Program has and will continue to serve the industry with the question: "How can we help?"

How We Can Help

hatcheryThe question "How can we help?" is consistent with Morgan PEARL's mission to provide the community with the knowledge to solve its environmental challenges through research, education and economic development with an interdisciplinary approach. What we do is we query the industry. We ask members of the industry how can we help. Those areas where members of the industry have expressed a need are those areas where we have focused our efforts on. As the industry has matured, the areas of focus have evolved with the industry. We do not go out with a mind set or specific focused area, we realize that the needs of the industry are not all housed at our facility so we work with partners to meet these requests. We fill in the gaps.

Past Efforts

hatcheryIn the past, MSU PEARL has conducted research and given entrepreneurial assistance for the oyster industry. In 2008, we asked the industry how we could help. As the industry has grown and evolved the activities of aquaculture program have adapted to meet the needs of the industry.

Below are some of the highlights:
• Design and construction of a pilot oyster hatchery
• Development of a waterman's cooperative oyster farm
• Economic analysis of oyster production
• Leasing and permit assistance
• Cage culture technology transfer
• Industry trade organization
• Business incubation
• Research on alternative substrates
• Undergraduate and Graduate Research Programs
• Workshop on the need for private commercial hatcheries

Hatchery 3MSU PEARL is actively involved in the aquaculture industry. Our presence is at national and regional meetings, conferences, and summits concerning aquaculture, as well as on the farms and operational sites. By remaining involved we can discover exactly what is keeping the industry from reaching their full potential and determining ways to help it move forward.

The Morgan State Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory in St. Leonard, Maryland is ideally suited for this program. Located on the shores of the Patuxent River in Calvert County, Maryland, PEARL has adequate space and an existing controlled sea-water system and 512-square foot hatchery. PEARL staff has many years of experience working with oysters and is extremely knowledgeable of the local aquaculture industry.

The MSU PEARL Aquaculture Program is an important component in facilitating the oyster aquaculture industry in Maryland. This program will continue to assist the industry, with current efforts focused on developing private oyster hatcheries to alleviate recent larvae and seed shortage of the growing industry. The program will continue to ask the industry "How can we help?" through it all.


Morgan State University's Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory has recently reopened their oyster hatchery at Jefferson Patterson Park in Calvert County. Our mission at the hatchery is to respond to the aquaculture industry's needs for creating private oyster hatcheries in the state of Maryland.

Our goal for the short term is to provide support for local watermen and entrepreneurs interested in becoming a part of the private oyster aquaculture industry. Part of this support will come from the production of diploid and triploid larvae from native oyster populations using our 616 square foot facility. Oyster hatcheries are important to the aquaculture industry because they provide a reliable supply of oyster larvae and spat for use by local watermen and other members in the oyster harvesting business. Hatcheries make for more sustainable shellfish farming, as it is relies less on the impacts of nature's unpredictable wild spat sets. Hatcheries provide a way to breed selectively for certain traits.

In the long term, our goal is to assist with the state with the creation of commercial hatcheries. Working with industry managers to transfer hatchery technology and knowledge is important in cultivating this growing industry.
Oyster farmers are in need of more sources of larvae to support their business' growth and developing private oyster hatcheries in the state of Maryland will assist with satisfying this need.

So, we ask those in the industry: How can we help?

Cage Culture

The PEARL cage culture project is designed to be a small-scale part-time income generating activity for watermen. This is advantageous because it allows watermen to continue to rely on traditional activities such as crabbing. This also allows watermen to have a greater diversity in income generating activities, protecting them against uncertainty in any one area.