Experiments Show Little Choptank Fossil Shell Works, Watermen No - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Experiments Show Little Choptank Fossil Shell Works, Watermen Not Convinced

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CAMBRIDGE, Md.- With each shovelful of fossilized oyster shell comes a plume of sediment.  That plume, combined with a bucket full of shells covered in muck, has watermen convinced the fossilized shell being put in the Little Choptank is anything but good for the environment, some even calling it toxic.

Horn Point Labs took samples of the shells to test that theory, examining them to see if oyster larvae would cling.

"You can see that there are oyster larvae on the Florida (fossilized) shell and on the regular shell," said Eric Weissberger, who works in the Department of Natural Resource's Shellfish program.

The results are in, and Weissberger says these experiments vindicate the material.

"To me what really validates it is it's performance in the field where we see that it's performing comparably to regular oyster shell and that's the real proof, when we see how larvae are really settling on it."

As for concerns the material could be toxic, he says the experiments show otherwise.

"There were some concerns that the material was toxic, and if that were the case, oyster larvae would not settle on it.  So if you can see here, the oyster larvae did settle on the material.  If it were toxic, that would not be the case," said Weissberger.

But Scott Todd, leader of the protest earlier this year, still isn't convinced.

"All this money and millions of dollars being spent on something that's occurring naturally, and we just saw that today.  There's millions of little oysters out there that have spawned themselves and they didn't have help from any hatchery," said Todd.

He says he doesn't believe the results of the experiment.  Todd still wonders why bring in fossilized shell from Florida, when there are plenty of shells on the bottom that the watermen can dredge up.

Weissberger says the goal of the shells is to rebuild oyster habitats that have disappeared in the past century, giving larvae a suitable replacement to strike.  He says the oyster population is at 1% of what it once was, and this method has proved successful in Harris Creek, where the average shell is seeing one to two spat attached per shell, comparable to natural shell.

The next phase of the project is set to take place in the Tred Avon river.

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