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Oysters Grow in Bill ­Burton’s Shadow

Man-made reef alive with seed spat

A new oyster reef lies alongside the Bill Burton Fishing Pier in the Choptank River. Sportsman and Maryland outdoors writer for nearly half a century, Burton retired from the Baltimore Evening Sun and came to Bay Weekly. Over 16 years with us, Burton became increasingly adamant and outspoken about restoring the Chesapeake.
    To make the reef, Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s oyster restoration boat, the Patricia Campbell, dropped 300 two-foot-tall, igloo-like reef balls built by volunteers for the Foundation and Maryland Saltwater Sportfishing Association.  Before launching, the balls were set with baby oysters spawned at the Horn Point Laboratory near Cambridge. Once in place, the reef was overplanted with a million spat-on-shell oysters.
     Oysters, mussels, barnacles and other benthic organisms make homes in the reef, drawing striped bass, sea bass and croaker and crustaceans like blue crabs, mud crabs and grass shrimp.
    Burton would be pleased at all the new life around the fishing pier named in his honor.
    And at the brighter big picture, with Chesapeake Bay again becoming an oyster-friendly environment, as Gov. Martin O’Malley reported last week.
    Oyster gardening is trending, with sanctuaries protecting a quarter of historic spawning grounds and aquaculture a rising source of table oysters.