Suffolk living classroom project receives grant funding

Published 9:29 pm Monday, January 9, 2023

A local project where students have the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning about oyster aquaculture is receiving a Chesapeake Oyster Alliance Awards Grant.

Barretts Neck Seafood LLC in Suffolk received $10,000 to turn the Lion’s Paw Oyster Restoration Education Sanctuary into an outdoor living classroom where students will have the opportunity to participate in hands-on learning about oyster aquaculture, according to a news release.

The Suffolk grant is one of 13 awarded for innovative oyster projects by the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance. Five Virginia organizations in Hampton Roads, the Northern Neck, Eastern Shore, and Middle Peninsula were awarded grants to provide students with hands-on oyster education experiences, improve oyster aquaculture production, and build oyster reefs.

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The $1115,000 in grant funding comes through COA in partnership with Chesapeake Bay Trust to enhance efforts to add more oysters to the Bay.

The Oyster Innovation Grants were given to five different Virginia entities and eight in Maryland that are working on projects to boost oyster aquaculture production and oyster restoration in Chesapeake Bay. Oyster aquaculture supports local businesses in the region and brings private investment to the overall effort to add more oysters to the Bay. Oysters are natural water filterers that build reefs, which serve as needed habitat for marine life such as fish and crabs.

“The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance is proud to award these grants to so many different and deserving organizations,” said Tanner Council, COA Manager. “The funding will accelerate efforts to bring back Chesapeake Bay oysters from tragically low population levels by growing aquaculture businesses, supporting restoration, and furthering research. This program is designed to drive innovation in the oyster sector, and magnify the amazing work happening across the Bay to help COA and its partners reach the goal of adding 10 billion oysters to the Bay by 2025.”

COA, which was founded by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in 2018, is a coalition of more than 90 non-profits, academic institutions, oyster growers, and other businesses.

Other Virginia awards include $3,438 to the Friends of the Rappahannock, $9,995 to Portsmouth Public Schools, $10,000 to the Accomack-Northampton Planning District Commission on the Eastern Shore and $10,000 to Long Creek Oyster Co. in Hampton Roads.

The Chesapeake Bay Trust handled the grant request and award process to ensure an independent selection process.

COA has been working toward its goal to add 10 billion oysters to the Bay by 2025 since 2018. In that time it has recorded about 4.7 billion oysters added to the Chesapeake.

Oyster population levels in the Bay have dropped to about 1 percent of historic levels due to pollution, diseases and overharvesting. Ongoing restoration efforts and a growing oyster aquaculture industry can bring back the species from the brink of collapse and increase oysters’ natural ability to provide habitat and filter water.

This is the second year COA has provided funding for oyster-related grants. In 2021, COA and the Bay Trust distributed more than $127,000 in oyster innovation grants to 13 different organizations.