Watermen Plant Oyster Shells in Shell and Seed Program - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Watermen Plant Oyster Shells in Shell and Seed Program

Posted: May 01, 2018 6:40 PM Updated:

ELLIOT ISLAND, Md. - They are the farmers of the sea. Some watermen were busy Tuesday planting one of their most valuable crops in Delmarva waterways - oysters.

Approaching the old boat, the Challenger, you'll find these watermen dropping oyster shells, muddying the waters in Fishing Bay.

Using a high pressure water pump, the towering, 4,000 bushels of shells onboard are sprayed back into the water, replenishing the oyster bar below.

Waterman, Guy Spurry, says the process, called Shell and Seed Program, has been going on for decades.

"I enjoy doing it," Spurry said.

But with lack of funding and help from the state, Spurry is now one of four watermen left in the program. Working together, he and other watermen buy shells from a company hours away in Virginia. They move back and forth non-stop a few weeks in April and May until the money runs dry.

Spurry says the empty shells won't show results until another three years and are no guarantee for a good oyster season. That, he says, is Mother Nature's job.

"It's been bad last two or three years and it's doing a nose dive, but that's how it is. It's always up and down," Spurry said.

In less than an hour, the watermen finish up, spraying off the few remaining shells. Changing their direction, they had back towards Virginia and towards blue waters.

Watermen say oyster sanctuaries have forced them to overharvest the few remaining oyster bars. The Shell and Seed Program helps remedy some of the overharvesting.

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