In June of 1972, Hurricane Agnes inundated the Mid-Atlantic region with massive amounts of rainfall. Rivers that drain into the Chesapeake Bay collected rainwater and large amounts of sediment from erosion of the land, and sent them into the Bay. This caused salinities to reach record lows resulting in catastrophic losses to some important bay organisms. Populations of oysters and soft clams located in the upper reaches of the Bay and its tributaries suffered major losses, and some have never recovered.
Formation of the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery
In response to the devastating storm, researchers from the University of Maryland proposed to construct a production-scale oyster hatchery at Horn Point. This facility was to be used to assist in oyster rehabilitation efforts centered around the areas most severely impacted by Hurricane Agnes. Initial funding for the construction of the facility and for the first year’s operation came from a grant from the Economic Development Administration.
The original hatchery here at the lab has been in operation since 1974. The facility has been invaluable as a tool for oyster research, restoration, and education. Sadly it has started to succumb to age and the antiquated systems are now largely obsolete.
Aquaculture and Restoration Ecology Laboratory Oyster Hatchery
The Aquaculture and Restoration Ecology Laboratory (AREL) was constructed to replace the old oyster hatchery. This state-of-the-art facility has allowed us to greatly expand the capacity for oyster production here at Horn Point. It has also provided quarantine and controlled environmental facilities needed to advance oyster culture and disease research.
Since opening in 2003, we have been able to dramatically increase oyster production to over 350 million spat on shell being produced and planted in the Bay in 2006. As this new oyster culture facility becomes more sophisticated, we hope we can produce over one billion spat on shell annually for the restoration of oysters for the Chesapeake Bay.