SMOCS

 

SOUTHERN MARYLAND
OYSTER CULTIVATION SOCIETY
 
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MESSAGES TO OUR MEM BERS
 

 


 
 
 
SMOCS EMAIL BLOG

September 24, 2012

Dear Friends and Members,

In looking back at how successfully we received and distributed 405 bags of spat on shell from the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program over the past 4 days, I am reminded of Mark Twain's observation that, "Isn't it amazing that the harder I work, the more successful I become."  Well, thanks to the detailed planning of our Vice President, Matt Regan, and the hard work of Penny Moran, my wife, Karen, the SMOCS Reef Captains, and a gazillion volunteers (please pardon the use of technical terms, but you get the idea that there were a lot of volunteers).  The MGO/ORP truck was at the Calvert Marine Museum by 8:30 am and we finished the last of the distribution by 2:00 pm.  Matt proved to be not only a good organizer, but also a real teamster, delivering spat to one place and another.

We distributed 305 bags of spat to members on Thursday as well as 12 MGO cages.  We put roughly 100 bags of spat bags in temporary storage.  By the end of the day yesterday, all but 12 bags of spat were distributed -- and all of those are committed to members.  All in all, a very successful effort with an amazing outpouring of support.

The SMOCS Board would like to thank all of you who volunteered your generosity in volunteering your time and labor in helping us plant MGO oysters over the last eight weeks and distribute this year's batch of new spat.  Your commitment reflects the core strength of our program.  In addition, we would like to extend our sincere thanks to Dave Moyer, Curator of Estuarine Biology at the Calvert Marine Museum, for his significant help in enabling us to retrieve and plant oysters from St. Leonard and Mill Cove Creeks.   Finally, I would like to extend our thanks to Elaine B. for allowing us to “warehouse”our spat on her property for several days.

In 2012, SMOCS planted roughly 4.5 million spat/oysters.  Over the 5 years in which we have been operating, we have planted a total of of 7.5 million of these valuable creatures.   All of this is possible because of the hard work of our Board and your generous donations of time, money and effort.  

With this successful completion of 98% of our 2012 program, the SMOCS Board is now starting to look ahead to what we need to do in 2013 to enable our program to continue making steady progress that we have realized over the past 5 years.  We’ll be reaching out to you in the near future with word of what our vision includes and how you can continue to be part of this impressive effort.  

In the meantime, please accept our sincere thanks for your continued support.

Len Zuza
President of SMOCS

DECEMBER 24, 2011

Dear Friends and Members,

I've just sent out letters informing members of our plans for next year and asking you to renew your SMOCS membership. The long and short of the letter is that we had a terrific year in 2011. We planted over 2 million spat/oysters and look forward to another banner year in 2012 when we plan to purchase another 1.5 million spat in addition to the 400,000 oysters that members are raising at their docks.

Now that we have prepped the bottoms of the sites where we will be planting oysters, virtually all our funds will now go to restoration (the only big exceptions are postage, printing and ink cartridges). At $0.01 per spat, that means that your $100 renewal would buy 10,000 spat; $250 would buy 25,000. In order for us to be able to purchase the spat we want, we need to
raise $15,000.

For those who have recently renewed, thank you and read the letter for the information it contains on our future plans.

Those who have not renewed, but want to, please remember that you can now do so online at our website: www.SMOCS.org.

Your generosity will help us hit our program targets.

Whatever you decide regarding your renewal, the SMOCS Board would like to extend our wishes that you have a happy holiday and a healthy, prosperous New Year!

Len Zuza
President of SMOCS

MAY 7, 2011

Dear Friends and Members,

The following article from the Southern Maryland Headline News http://somd.com/news/headlines/2011/13700.shtml was called to my attention by Robert Willey, a member of SMOCS Board who lives in St. Mary's County .  The thrust of it is that poachers removed 33% to 80% of the oysters that DNR planted between 2008 and 2010 as part of the $50 million oyster restoration program that Maryland started in 1994.  The precise number is hard to determine, but it is substantial because DNR conducts in-water surveys and has observed what it believes is evidence of illegal harvesting.

Please take the time to read the article on line because it validates our "Small Waters Strategy" in which SMOCS plants our oysters in the creeks where members raise them.  This both creates an incentive for waterfront residents to raise oysters because they benefit directly from them and, to a large extent, protects our oysters from poaching because many of these creeks are closed to oyster harvesting because of fecal coliform contamination.  While the millions of oysters that we expect to plant are very small compared to the hundreds of million to several billions that the state envisions, our oysters are far more likely to "stay on the bottom" to perform their environmental role.

There are three takeaway points that I would like to leave with you:

First, please read the article closely and you will see that it is not a justification for bashing watermen as thieves.  Honest watermen want to see strict, reliable enforcement of oyster harvesting regulations.  More than 99% of watermen are hardworking and honest.  In fact, the group hardest hit by illegal catches are the honest watermen who are having their harvests reduced by the poachers who are removing broodstock and, in some cases, stealing the oysters that other watermen have planted.  But the 1% of watermen who are stealing — poaching is too polite a word — are wreaking serious damage on honest watermen and the environmental quality of the Bay.

Second, while many of the new oyster restoration sites that SMOCS has established are in “closed waters” (where all oyster harvesting is forbidden), others are in waters where some harvesting is allowed and local communities need to establish “Demonstration Leases” to protect their oysters.  Regardless of the locations, SMOCS oyster gardeners, as well as individuals raising oysters for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Coastal Conservation Association, need to protect the oysters we plant.  All oyster gardeners in each creek should organize Poacher Posses who will monitor and report on ANY removal of oysters.

Third, given the encouraging 2010 DNR winter survey statistics on oyster reproduction and survival as well as the increased likelihood that we can protect our oysters from theft, we need to accelerate our efforts to raise even more oysters to improve water quality in our creeks.  So, if you have one SMOCS BOCS, consider getting a second.  If you have a neighbor who has been supportive of your oyster gardening efforts, persuade him/her to join you with a BOCS at their dock.  The more oysters that we plant, the sooner we will see the improvements in water quality that we desire.

We are excited about the prospect of planting some 2 million spat/oysters this summer and are looking ahead to making 2012 another banner year for local oyster restoration by preparing to plant even more oysters next year.  We need your continued support to make these efforts successful.

Len Zuza
President of SMOCS

DECEMBER 2010

Dear Friends and Members,

I am very pleased to announce that SMOCS has concluded negotiations with the Solomons Charter Captains Association in which the Association will provide SMOCS $5,000 to establish a new oyster reef at Pancake Point in Mill Creek.  These funds will enable SMOCS to seed this site, that will be named the SCCA Reef, with 500,000 spat on shell.  To help defray the expenses of preparing the bottom with shell, Prince Frederick Ford has generously agreed to provide us an additional $3,000.

SMOCS has agreed to manage the procurement and planting of the spat for this site and the shell.  We also agreed to renew the SCCA Reef each year with year-old oysters raised by by our members.  These yearlings will replace some of the SCCA oysters that die naturally.  They will also maintain a mixture of male and female oysters at the Reef, thus improving the potential for natural oyster reproduction.

We are deeply grateful to SCCA and Prince Frederick Ford for their generosity.  These grants will significantly advance SMOCS’ efforts to reach our goal of 3.5 million live oysters in Solomons Harbor.  It will also provide us another location on which to plant oysters in the harbor.  Our current sites are largely full with the oysters that we deposited over the past two years.

Finally, I am asking you to help strengthen our program by renewing your membership at $35, $50, or $100 dollars — or more.  We have grown quickly from our modest beginnings in 2007 and are poised for another surge of growth not only in the size, but also the quality of our program.  With your help we can become the premier, community-based oyster cultivation program not just in Solomons, but anywhere in Maryland.  That’s the commitment of our Board and, with your help, we’ll achieve it!

Len Zuza
President of SMOCS

OCTOBER 2010

Dear Friends and Members,

Now that we have completed the planting of the 2010 cohort of oysters, wrapped up our two major public exhibits (Annmarie Garden ArtsFest; PRAD), and distributed most of our MGO spat for next year’s planting, we have begun our "After Action Assessments."  In doing so, we have identified our first setback in 3 years: the spat count for the seed oysters that we received from MGO this year is much lower than acceptable.  While some MGO bags have moderate spat counts (3 to 5 per shell), most counts are much lower or have no spat at all.  Other organizations have reported the same problem throughout southern Maryland.

This presents SMOCS with two problems.  It:

  1. Reduces the effectiveness of those engaged in our program (we want our waterfront residents and volunteers to do more than merely move shell around).
  2. Sets us back in restoring 3.5 million live oysters in Solomons Harbor.

So, the SMOCS Board has decided to help SMOCS gardeners increase the number of oysters that they are raising.  We have concluded an agreement with Johnny Oyster Seed (JOS) to provide SMOCS members who have BOCSes with one bag of seed oysters per BOCS at no cost to them.   They simply pick up their bags from JOS and empty them into their BOCS.  Jon Farrington, the proprietor of JOS, works hard to obtain a high spat count per shell, so this augmentation will bring SMOCS members closer to the targeted levels of oysters that SMOCS is striving for in local creeks.

How to Get Free JOS Spat for Your BOCS

  1. This opportunity is limited to BOCS owners who are members of SMOCS.  Individuals who have BOCSes, but are not members of SMOCS do not qualify for this benefit.  (Anyone who has a BOCS and is not a member of SMOCS, but would like to participate in this should contact me to see if we can make a suitable, mutually agreeable arrangement.)
  2. Sorry, but we can not extend this offer to MGO cages.  The amount of shell in cages is too small to make a cost effective augmentation.
  3. Those who have recently purchased new BOCSes do not need these supplements.  The first load of seed oysters in a new BOCS comes directly from JOS.  So you already have a high spat count per shell in your BOCS.
  4. To get your free bag of spat, you need to contact JOS directly to make arrangements to pick up your bag(s) from his base on Williams Wharf Road (off of Broomes Island Road) in St. Leonard, Maryland.  You can do so either by calling him at 410 610 1508 or by email at JohnnyOysterSeed@gmail.com.
We are making this opportunity available to members because we want to remain the most effective oyster gardening program in the area.  The reason that we can make these high-count seed oysters available to members is that SMOCS is shell rich, but money poor.  Johnny Oyster Seed is accepting shell for each bag of spat in lieu of cash payment.  This arrangement is a win-win for everyone:
  • SMOCS members get to raise more oysters per BOCS.
  • JOS obtains hard-to-get shell for next year’s spawning of seed oysters.
  • SMOCS gets to help members without drawing down on our limited finances.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Len Zuza
President of SMOCS

AUGUST 2010


Dear Members and Supporters of SMOCS,

This message provides you a schedule of important SMOCS events scheduled for later this month.  I hope that you will be able to participate in one or more of these activities.  The SMOCS Board knows that the strength of our program is based on the support that we get from you, the residents who will benefit directly from the environmental benefits of our oyster restoration program in your creeks.  This message is asking for your time and support.  

Summary of Key Events   On Sunday, August 22, we will have our Annual SMOCS Membership Meeting where you can find out more on the status of our efforts and ask questions of our Board members (more details below).  On August 21 and during the week of August 23 through 29, we will be planting oysters that many of you have been raising.

Call for Volunteers   We will need boats and volunteers to collect oysters from members docks and plant them on prepared sites.  If you are free on any of these days, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator Matt Regan to help us in these critical activities:

Matt Regan, SMOCS Volunteer Coordinator
(301) 461 0100
mattregan@starpower.net

Saturday, August 21: Oyster Planting in Back and Mill Creeks  (8:30 am till completion (estimated time: Noon))   It’s time to collect the oysters that members have raised over the past year and deposit them on prepared sites in Back and Mill Creeks.    Volunteers from Solomons Landing and Oyster Bay will again collect oysters in Back Creek and plant them on the site between the two communities.  In Mill Creek, SMOCS volunteers will again be assisted by the Patuxent Small Craft Guild’s historic Hooper Island drake-tail fishing launch from the Calvert Marine Museum.  It will tow SMOCS BOCSes from nearby locations to the planting site inside Daymark #7 on Mill Creek and then take them back to host docks.  The museum’s C Hawk will hoist and empty SMOCS BOCSes from more distant locations on Mill Creek to save time and carry the oysters to the planting site.  We will especially need volunteers in Mill Creek to detach BOCSes from members docks, secure them in towing harnesses and then reattach them to host docks after they have been emptied.  

There are 16 SMOCS BOCSes in Mill Creek, so we will be adding another 80,000 oysters to the 80,000 that CCA planted there in mid June on the site that SMOCS prepared earlier this year.  This combined effort contrasts with the 65,000 oysters that SMOCS planted there last year, a 146% increase.  In Back Creek, we expect to plant some 90,000 oysters, a 25% increase over that we planted in 2009.

Contact Matt Regan if you can help in either creek

MAY 2, 11-6 PM SMOCS AT CALVERT GREEN EXPO, JEFFERSON-PATTERSON PARK

Dear Friends and Members,

One of the things that I tell prospective members is that SMOCS provides periodic opportunities to learn more from expert scientists about how oysters reproduce, grow and affect the environment.  After the Calvert Green Expo ends this Sunday at 4:00 pm, SMOCS will provide members not just one, but two such events:

George Abbe Lecture at 4:00 pm  Professor Abbe is an undisputed expert on oyster diseases and most of his geographic focus has been in the Patuxent River.  He has spent years studying the microbes that weaken, then kill oysters and he will provide SMOCS members a talk on that subject immediately after the Green Expo ends.  This is your opportunity to learn from an expert about the diseases that have hindered the return of the native oyster to the Bay.  

George was one of the key advisors that SMOCS turned to when we began studying whether our plans for oyster restoration would work.  In true professional fashion, he advised us that, if we carefully selected deposit sites, prepped the bottoms properly with shell, and then deposited healthy, young oysters, we would have the same chances of success as the larger restoration sites in the Bay.   He tested the juvenile oysters that we raised last year before we deposited them in local creeks and found a very low incidence of disease.  If we have time, we may even be able to see the laboratory where George has done his work.  

Come to the SMOCS display at the Expo and we’ll direct you to the Morgan State Estuarine Research Center (it’s a moderately long, but beautiful walk).

Hatchery Tour at 5:00 pm  Jon Farrington is the proprietor of Johnny Oyster Seed, a member of the SMOCS board, the developer of the BOCS (and its upgrades), and the prime builder of the oyster hatchery at Morgan State.  He will be our guide to the new facility there that will be hatching oysters for various programs.  Jon understands the complexities of and requirements for oyster reproduction so well that the Estuarine Research Center hired him to build the facility.  What better guide could anyone want to show us how the it works?  Johns tour should last about an hour.

Both events will provide you the opportunity to ask the questions that you’ve always wanted to have answered about oysters.   Please let me know if you plan on coming so that we can prepare enough room to accommodate all attendees.

The SMOCS schedule at Jefferson Patterson Park for this Sunday, May 2, is:

10:00 am to 11:00 am       Prepare SMOCS booth at the Calvert Green Expo Site
11:00 am to  4:00 pm        SMOCS Green Expo Exhibit
 4:00 pm to   5:00 pm        George Abbe Lecture (room to be determined)
 5:00 pm to   6:00 pm        Jon Farrington tour of the ERC Oyster Hatchery

I hope to see you this Sunday even if you just stop by to say hello.  

Directions to Jefferson Patterson Park can be found at the park site:  http://www.jefpat.org/1directions.htm.

Len Zuza
President of SMOCS

APRIL 25, 7-9 PM -- MPT VOLUNTEER-A-THON

We are proud to announce that SMOCS is the lead organization in the MPT Volunteer-a-Thon SMOCS was invited to participate in Maryland Public Television’s (MPT) Volunteer-a-Thon on Sunday, April 25. The show will run from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. SMOCS has been selected to be the first organization on the show (!) at 7:00pm. This means that our program will be visible statewide and stand a very good chance of getting a strong response because people will not be “numbed” by the 115th organization asking for help.

We invite you to tune in to the broadcast on Channel 22.
We also urge you to encourage your friends, neighbors, and relatives to do so as well.The purpose of this television event Is to enlist volunteers to help environmental organizations.

An MPT film crew came down to Solomons earlier this month to interview several SMOCS volunteers. We are not sure who will be included in the finaledited version of the show, but, given the film crew’s enthusiasm about our program, we are confident that SMOCS will make a good showing. Matt Regan, our Membership Coordinator, will make a live presentation during the Volunteer-a-Thon to describe what we need. He will also be the person who
coordinates the volunteers later in the season as we implement another cycle
in our restoration program. Please give Matt your full support.

Far more importantly, we strongly encourage you to call in or write to MPT (we’re not totally sure how the numbers will be tallied, but do know that MPT counts the volunteers for each organization). Even if you are already volunteering for us, please call in anyway or write to their website . Each volunteer not only makes MPT feel that its efforts to help environmental
organizations are worthwhile, but also represents a vote of support for SMOCS. If you have not yet volunteered to help us, please consider doing so. Our program is going through a strong surge of growth and we need more volunteers not only to get “down, wet, and dirty” in program implementation, but also to help us manage our growing membership base, track volunteers, keep the local community informed about our activities, and organize the
shore-side support of our operations.

FEBRUARY 25, 2010

Dear Member,
 
As a new organization, SMOCS focused on implementing our community-based oyster restoration program.  We avoided anything that would have distracted us from putting oysters onto the bottoms of local creeks.  Last year, we successfully completed our first comprehensive restoration cycle (from the remote setting of spat to depositing those year-old oysters on creek bottoms).  

However, recent proposals in the General Assembly have raised serious issues that could directly harm the few remaining oysters in the Bay and indirectly prevent our oysters from becoming part of the larger mass of oysters that the Bay needs to become healthy.  These are in the form of legislative initiatives that would gut the Governor’s 10-Point Oyster Restoration Plan and jeopardize large-scale efforts to restore oysters to the Bay.
 
At our meeting last Sunday, the SMOCS Board discussed this situation and agreed to ask our members to contact Maryland delegates and senators to support one proposal that would toughen enforcement of oyster harvesting laws (SB342/HB1191) and to strongly oppose others that would either limit the expansion of oyster sanctuaries or authorize the expansion of harvest areas and techniques that would damage oyster beds and reduce the number of oysters in the Bay. So the SMOCS Board is asking you to contact state representatives and urge them to defeat bills in the General Assembly that would harm oyster restoration.

If you agree to take action, there are three attachmentswere included in your February 25th message that will provide you factual information to support your appeal. (If you need copies, please contact mattregan@starpower.com.) These attachments included:

  1. A detailed discussion of why the SMOCS board feels so strongly about these legislative initiatives.
  2. A draft statement to be sent to state legislators and a selected list of the names and contact information of key legislators.
  3. A  detailed description of each relevant piece of legislation.  

    Please consider using these resources to protect one of the Bay’s living treasures, the native oyster that we have worked so hard to grow and protect.  As we struggle to restore local water quality, one oyster at a time, we look to you to help make a strong political statement to save the remaining oysters, one constituent at a time.
     
    Len Zuza
    President of SMOCS


AUGUST 4, 2009

SMOCS is happy to announce that we have made our first deposit of oyster raised by members on a site that we prepared!

Last weekend, 12 SMOCS volunteers deposited some 15,000 juvenile oysters on a site in Hungerford Creek. This benchmark accomplishment is the culmination of nearly two and a half years of research, planning, organization, hard work and the widespread support of the southern Patuxent community. The latter includes more than 70 waterfront property owners,
residents who don't live on the water, and local businesses (restaurants and marinas as well as marine construction and trucking companies). My deep thanks to all of you who made this innovative program possible.

From the very beginning, the SMOCS Board has strived to build a comprehensive program that includes: researching the practices that create the best conditions for oysters to survive, raising spat at nearby docks, identifying and preparing sites in local creeks to receive juvenile oysters, scientifically tracking the results of our efforts, and concentrating oysters in locations where the people who raised the oysters will be the first to enjoy the benefits of the improved water quality.

I just returned from the Morgan State Estuarine Research Center where I dropped off some 25 oysters to test for dermo, the disease that affects oysters the most severely in this region. We will continue to integrate scientific monitoring into our restoration program to insure that we deposit juvenile oysters in locations where they will have the best chances of survival.

Finally, I'd like to appeal for your continued support. SMOCS Board members are working hard to complete the deposit of more than 250,000 of last year's oysters in Mill, St. Johns and Back Creeks and expand this year's program to 500,000 spat. We need your support to achieve this ambitious goal. Please encourage friends and neighbors who live on the water to contact us to receive MGO spat (young oysters). We've moved with amazing speed from a
vague plan to "do something" to a concrete program that is having concrete, measurable results. We need your help and support to continue this powerful momentum. Five hundred thousand oysters could filter algae from more than 25,000,000 gallons each day in a creek close to your house. Please, help us achieve that goal.

Len Zuza
President of SMOCS

JUNE 2, 2009

SMOCS A PART OF "MARYLAND GROWS OYSTERS" - LEARN MORE AT THE ANNUAL MEETING JUNE 20TH

SMOCS has just received official word from the Department of Natural Resources that it has accepted our application to receive 500,000 spat on shell later this year as part of the Governor's Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) initiative. SMOCS is proud and honored to be able to participate in the MGO program because it will significantly increase the effectiveness of our programs.

Please mark your calendars to attend our annual Membership Meeting at 10:30am on Saturday, June 20 at the Oyster Bay Club House in Dowell Maryland, off of Dowell Road where we will discuss the implications for SMOCS programs of our acceptance into MGO.

In addition to a discussion about the MGO, Senator Fowler, our keynote speaker, will address our members with his recollections about the abundance of oysters in the Patuxent River and how pollution has significantly reduced their presence in recent years.

Light refreshments and coffee will be served at the start of the meeting.

APRIL 3, 2009

URGENCY TO INTRODUCE ASIAN OYSTER DECLINES

"SMOCS strongly supports state and federal programs to promote the restoration of native oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in the Bay and uses them exclusively in our programs. Our Board has not taken a formal position regarding the Asian oyster (Crassostrea ariakensis), but we have been following with great interest the debate on the introduction of this alien species.

"One of the key advocates for C. ariakensis has been the Virginia Seafood Council. In a surprise move last week, the Council withdrew its request to raise this species. While this does not end the debate, it provides state and federal decision makers more time to identify the most productive strategies for restoring viable oyster populations to the Chesapeake Bay.

"We thought that our members would be interested in this significant development."

MARCH 27, 2009

SMOCS would like to alert its members to an in-depth interview of its President, Len Zuza, about our program by Dr. Bradley Gottfried, President of the College of Southern Maryland.  It will air twice this Sunday morning for roughly 30 minutes.  The first broadcast will be at 7:00 o’clock on radio station WKIK (102.9 FM); the second, at 8:00 o’clock on STAR Radio (98.3 FM).   In addition to providing SMOCS an opportunity to describe our programs to radio audiences in southern Maryland, the interview enabled SMOCS to recognize the valuable contributions of our committed volunteers.  Tune in to hear Dr. Gottfried's questions and learn of the latest developments in SMOCS and Maryland’s oyster restoration efforts.  

OCTOBER 30, 2008

To All SMOCS Members:
 
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I would like to inform you that we have not yet been successful in securing a grant to fund our reef project.  Nevertheless, we have formulated a plan that will allow SMOCS to get started on the project, but we need your help.

As you probably know, we have been collecting shell from a number of sources and have two considerable piles at a location in Solomons for future use.  We will continue those efforts and hopefully, we will have enough to set a sub-strata for our reef by late next summer.

In the meantime, we have arranged for over one million oyster spat to be set on shell.  I am pleased to report that we had a good set, and that these oysters are now available and ready to be moved from the setting tank to local waters in the “SMOCS BOCS”  (Buoyant Oyster Cultivation System) designed by Jon Farrington.  I have attached a file to this e-mail that shows this design, which is a great improvement over available float systems in at least two regards. First, it is constructed out of heavier materials in order to accommodate the weight of spat-on-shell.  Second, due to its round design and attached line, the oysters can be rotated easily, without the need to flip the entire floating cage.  

Initially, we had hoped that grant money could fund the SMOCS BOCS, but, as I mentioned, we have not been successful in obtaining a grant yet.  This is where you come in.  SMOCS is offering members an opportunity to participate in the most comprehensive oyster restoration program in southern Maryland. Through a collaborative agreement with Jonny Oyster Seed, a shellfish nursery in Battle Creek, SMOCS has more than a million and a half spat-on-shell available for distribution to our members.  SMOCS has negotiated a special arrangement with Jonny Oyster Seed in which SMOCS members can procure a BOCS for $250/unit.  Each unit will come with approximately five thousand (5,000) oysters, which is two or three times the amount of spat per unit found in many other floating oyster cultivation systems.

The members of the Board recognize that we are asking you to make a significant investment in this project, but absent grant money, there is no other way to insure that we will have oysters for our reef project.  It is also worth remembering that the cost to you may be less than it appears.    SMOCS cannot provide tax advice, but can call members’ attention to Maryland Code, Tax-Gen. Para. 10-724(b). which permits waterfront property owners to claim a tax credit of up to $500 per person for the purchase of floats to raise oysters. This means that a couple who qualifies can purchase up to 4 BOCSes with 20,000 spat on shell and claim up to $1,000 as a credit on their Maryland taxes on Form 502CR. This provides residents an incentive to participate in oyster cultivation programs by authorizing the taxpayer to redirect a portion of his/her MD income tax obligation towards to the purchase oyster floats.  Please consult with a professional if you have any question about whether you would be able to claim this credit.

Please review the attached file detailing Phase Two of our plan to place oyster reefs in our local waters and illustrating the SMOCS BOCS.  You may receive a call from one of the board members in the next few days (if you haven’t already) asking you to purchase a SMOCS BOCS (or more than one if you would like!) and answering any questions you might have regarding the BOCS system, delivery, etc.  If you know that you would like to purchase one or more SMOCS BOCS, please let me know by a return e-mail so I can keep a tally.  Then, you should contact Jonny Oyster Seed at 410-610-1508 or TheOysterGuy@gmail.com <mailto:TheOysterGuy@gmail.com> directly to order your oysters and equipment and make arrangements for delivery, if needed.
 
Thank you for taking the time to read this message and for being part of our effort to restore oysters to the creeks along the lower Patuxent River.  While this is no simple task, the Board remains confident that working together we can make it happen.

Sincerely,
 
Matt Regan
SMOCS Secretary

JULY 14, 2008

As printed in the Washington POST:

Christy Goodman’s July 7 Metro article on efforts to raise oysters in Hellen Creek in Lusby - “Hard-Shell Tactics; In Clean-Water Quest, Neighbors Become Oyster Ranchers”] highlighted a significant trend: small, community-based programs that use oysters to reduce pollution in local waters. These projects complement efforts by Maryland officials to restore
big oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay.

Over the past year, our group, the Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society (SMOCS), has been receiving strong support from individuals, business groups, community associations and state agencies for a program that will raise over 1 million oysters annually for deposit in sanctuaries in Solomons Harbor, not far from Hellen Creek.

SMOCS’s goal is to accumulate a large enough number of oysters in these creeks to produce a measurable improvement in water quality. At 55 gallons per oyster, that would mean a significant localized reduction in algae. This could result in, among other things, the return of submerged plants that provide refuge for molting crabs.

SMOCS, like the residents of Hellen Creek, looks to clean pollution from
local waters — one oyster at a time.

LEONARD B. ZUZA
President
Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society
Lusby

JUNE 30, 2008

All SMOCS Members:
 
On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am writing to let you know the status of our pending grant proposal for funds to construct a reef in our local waters.  As you may know, we submitted a grant proposal in March for funding to set spat on shell and construct a reef of approximately one quarter of an acre in our local waters.   The funds from this grant would provide a huge portion of the resources we need to set large numbers of spat on shell this summer and to transfer them to a local creek next summer. 
 
The original date for announcement pertaining to these grants was June 2, 2008.  The organization providing the grant has postponed the announcement date twice, and we now hope to hear from them in mid to late July.  If we are fortunate enough to get the grant, we may have to change our plans slightly to accommodate for the lost time.  If we do get the grant, we will have a great deal of work to do this summer to get the oyster spat set on shell and then into floating cages.  I hope that many of you will be able to pitch in if and when that time comes.
 
In the event the grant notification is delayed further or if we are not awarded the grant, we have a contingency plan that would let us go forward this year that would be dependent on our members raising oysters on their own.  Shell Cove nursery can provide us with spat on shell in floating baskets.  While those floats will require an initial expenditure of cash by individuals, the purchase price would be eligible for a credit in the individuals’ Maryland State taxes next year.  We are, of course, hoping that the grant will come through so that the spat on shell can be purchased by SMOCS itself, using the grant money, rather than by individuals.  We will let you know how things stand as soon as we get more information regarding the grant proposal.
 
Thank you for your patience.
 
Matt Regan
SMOCS Secretary

APRIL 28, 2008

On behalf of SMOCS, I’d like to thank all of you for attending our event at the Calvert Marine Museum on April 20th and for requesting more information about SMOCS.  I hope after learning more about our organization, you will join SMOCS and help us meet our goals of restoring oysters in our local waters and improving water quality in Southern Maryland.  On our website you will find additional information about SMOCS.  If you click on the tab marked “Membership”, there is information regarding membership and a link that allows you to download our brochure from your printer.  The brochure has an application form, which you can fill out and send in if you would like to become a member.  
 
SMOCS is a new organization located in Southern Maryland dedicated to the idea that local people can make a difference in the quality of local waters. SMOCS encourages the cultivation of oysters both as a way to clean our rivers and creeks and as a way to re-connect to a significant historic and cultural legacy of Southern Maryland.  While we recognize that there is much work to do to restore the quality of local waters and our oyster population, we are optimistic that we can make a difference by rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.  We hope you will join us.
 
SMOCS will focus its efforts on the Patuxent River and its tributary creeks.  We have members from both sides of the river.  We have members as young as eight years old and members who are somewhat older.  We have members from different occupations.  What we have in common is a deep appreciation for the beauty and history of Southern Maryland’s maritime environment and culture, and a determination to make sure they don’t disappear.
 
You may be interested in knowing specifics about what SMOCS plans to accomplish.  First, we will encourage people to get oysters in the water by providing information about where to obtain the necessary oysters and equipment for those people who want to raise oysters.  For members who don’t have access to a dock, we will try to match them up with a location where they can raise oysters through our “adopt-a-dock” program.  Second, SMOCS conducts outreach and educational programs for community and youth groups interested in learning more about the biology of oysters, their potential for environmental restoration efforts, and/or their importance to the economy and culture of Southern Maryland. SMOCS already has worked with school groups and the Calvert County 4-H, and we hope to expand our efforts to other community groups in the future.
 
SMOCS will construct and maintain sanctuary oyster reefs in creeks along the Patuxent River.  Our goal is to construct reefs in smaller bodies of water to improve water quality in those creeks and to improve habitat for other marine animals.  To that end, SMOCS has already acquired a significant amount of technical expertise and materials necessary for a reef construction project.  SMOCS is pursuing both a substantial private grant to finance the purchase of necessary additional equipment and the permits required to construct a reef.  We will hear about our grant request in June, and if it is granted, we will begin significant activities almost immediately.  We will need lots of help; joining SMOCS will provide an opportunity to actually do something in our local waters right now.  
 
 Please look over our website and contact me if you have any questions regarding SMOCS.   This is a community-based group of volunteers that can make a real difference if enough people will join in the effort to improve our local waters and restore an important part of our cultural heritage.
 Again, thank you for coming to our event and for your interest in SMOCS.
 
Sincerely,
 
Matt Regan
Secretary of SMOC

APRIL 28, 2008

To all SMOCS Members:
 
I just wanted to let everyone know what has been going on with SMOCS and what is coming up in the near future.  Also, if anyone has any questions, concerns, comments or ideas, please let me or the other board members know.  I will be happy to pass on any such information to the rest of the board if you send it to me.
 
1.       What has been going on?
 
SMOCS has been pretty active this year.  As you know, we had our first annual members meeting last Sunday at the Calvert marine Museum, in conjunction with a screening of a new movie about oysters.  From the size of the audience, I’am assuming many of you were there.  We had about 80 people in the audience, and in addition, we got a significant response of new folks interested in getting more information about and, (we hope) joining SMOCS.  We are trying to build our numbers, so if you know of people who share our interests in oysters and clean water, please encourage them to join!
 
SMOCS has continued to our efforts to build relationships with other groups and to educate the public about our goals.  Len and Jon have been working with the Calvert County 4-H program, designing a program for young people to learn about the potential of oyster cultivation.  We have also committed to appear at a company function for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) to demonstrate the water cleaning power of oysters and familiarize people with water quality issues in the bay and the Patuxent.  We would like to thank WSSC for its generous donation to SMOCS in support of our efforts.
 
SMOCS has submitted a grant proposal that, if awarded, will let us begin our reef construction project.  We expect to receive notification regarding the proposal in early June.  If we receive the award, we will need lots of volunteer help from all our members (and anyone else that wants to help out.)  More on that, below.
 
We have been collecting shell to use in our reef construction project.  We have a pretty good pile of old shell (which we can use to set spat on this summer if we get the grant.)  We are also receiving new shell from a number of local sources, and the board has been contacting a number of potential new sources of shell as well.  We would like to thank some local businesses who have been providing us with Shell this winter:  Bunky’s in Solomons, Solomons Pier Restaurant, and Stoney’s kingfisher in Solomons.  These restaurants have been very generous and enthusiastic in their support for SMOCS.  As many of you know, one of the biggest hurdles in oyster restoration is getting shell on which to set spat. SMOCS is grateful for the support from these businesses.
 
Believe it or not, SMOCS even has been receiving shell from a restaurant in Montgomery County! One of our youngest members, Isabella Salmon, age 11, has been collecting shell from Blacks Restaurant in Bethesda. Isabella has taken on this job as a community service project, and has collected about 100 gallons of shell so far, and she plans to keep on going. Well done Isabella!  And thanks to Blacks for their support. 
 
2.       What is coming up?
 
The big item on the horizon is the reef construction project.  If the grant comes thorough, we will have a lot of work to do this summer.  The first phase will include constructing 64 of Jon Farrington’s specially designed “SMOCS BOCS” (SMOCS Buoyant Oyster Cultivation System), constructing the setting tank, setting spat on shell in the setting tank, loading the SMOCS BOCS with the new oyster spat, and placing the SMOCS BOCS  at local docks so the oysters can grow before placement on the reef next year.  All this will need to be done this summer. As you can see, we will need a lot of volunteer help to get this all done.  
 
To that end, we need our members, their friends, their family, and anyone else you can think of to help out.  We don’t have dates picked out yet because everything is somewhat dependent upon the grant proposal, but I am asking everyone to let me know if they can help out in some way.  In addition to needing volunteers to help out on land, we will also need folks with boats to tow some of the SMOCS BOCS to the locations where they will be placed to allow the oysters to grow this year.  Please get back to me and let me know if you can help out this summer.  Also, if you know of any groups that might want to help out (student groups, church groups, scouts, citizen groups, etc.) make some inquiries and let me know if you come up with anything.
 
Thanks for your attention to these matters and for your support of SMOCS.  Things are starting to come together, and we can make a difference in our local waters by working toward our goals together.
 
Matt Regan
Secretary of SMOCS

MARCH 5, 2008

To All SMOCS Members:
 
The Southern Maryland Oyster Cultivation Society and Calvert Marine Museum are pleased to announce the premier showing of the movie, “Who Killed Crassostrea virginica: the Fall and Rise of the Chesapeake Oyster” on Sunday, April 20 at 2:00 pm in the museum’s auditorium.  This documentary, directed by Michael Fincham of Maryland Sea Grant, has stunning underwater footage of oysters in the Bay and discusses the impact of the decline in oyster harvests on traditional tidewater communities.
 
Following the movie, SMOCS will hold its first annual membership meeting in which the Society’s members and the general public will be able to learn about SMOCS latest
efforts to restore oyster reefs in Solomons Harbor.   The Board of Directors would like to encourage all members to attend, and we also encourage you to bring along anyone who might be interested in oysters generally or who would be interested in helping our efforts to restore oysters to our local waters.   
 
On behalf of the SMOCS Board of Directors,
 
Matt Regan

DECEMBER 13, 2007

Attached is the second newsletter that SMOCS is sending to friends and supporters. We have made astonishing progress for a new organization and are excited about an even more successful series of program in 2008.

Karen and I would like to use this message to extend to all of you warm wishes for a happy holiday season filled with peace and joy from family and friends as well as a prosperous and successful new year.

We are making a transition from a Microsoft-based computer to a Mac-based one. So, please let me know if any recipients have trouble opening the attachment and I will send you a hard copy via snail mail.

Len Zuza

OCTOBER 25, 2007

One of the benefits of SMOCS membership is periodic bulletins about conditions in southern Maryland that affect oysters.  This is the first in a series of such notifications.

Current Drought Harms Oysters  We're all aware of the damage that the current drought has caused to the plants around our houses.  I've lost several azaleas and a few other ornamental shrubs.  Ironically, the damage from the drought also extends below the surface of the waters in our creeks and coves to harm local oysters.  

For centuries, the Patuxent River has been an ideal place for oysters to live because the salinity was perfect for them to both grow and reproduce.  On the average, in the early spring, surface salinity ranged from 7 to 9 parts per thousand (PPT) above Chalk Point to 9 to 10 PPT near the mouth of the river.  By autumn, between the summer heat, higher evaporation, and limited rain, salinity increased to 14/15 PPT in most sections of the river.  For purposes of comparison, salinity at the mouth of the Bay ranged between 20 to 29 PPT.  

The introduction of two protozoan diseases, dermo in the late 1940's and MSX several decades later changed the dynamic between salinity and oyster health.  Both diseases are more harmful to oysters living in higher salinity.  During the recent drought, local salinity increased significantly.  In a discussion today with George Abbe, an assistant professor at Morgan State Estuarine Research Center, I learned that the salinity of the Patuxent at the mouth was 19 PPT, nearly 25% higher than normal and the same as the ocean.  Salinity north of Point Patience was 17.5 PPT.  George and other scientists are very concerned about the harmful effects of this increase in salinity.  It will take several months before they can fully determine the impact of this increased salinity on oyster mortality.  For those of us raising oysters from our docks, we should not be surprised to see more deaths.  SMOCS will follow the effect of this drought on our oysters and report as new information emerges from scientific tracking of oyster survival.

Remember the seminar by Jackie Takacs at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory on Saturday, November 3 from 9:00 am to noon.  This, the first in a series of SMOCS-sponsored learning opportunities, is the perfect opportunity for members to learn that an oyster has a heart (!) and other identifiable organs.  Jackie is an excellent teacher and members will learn about the fundamental physiology of the creature that holds the promise of helping us clean pollution from our waters.  Contact me if you would like to sign up.
Len Zuza

JULY 26, 2007

Dear Friends (and Friends-to-Be) of SMOCS,

After a year of research and consulting, we have launched the Southern Calvert Oyster Cultivation Society (SMOCS).  We were lucky to catch the attention of, Rick Beckrich,  a writer from the Calvert Independent who interviewed me last week and "broke all journalistic traditions" by not only accurately reporting what I told him, but also adding constructive information of his own (a similar, successful oyster project in Virginia).  I am attaching the lead article in the D-Section of the July 25 edition of the paper. I intend to follow up and find out more about the parallel Virginia effort.  If anyone knows more about this project, please share the information with me.  

This article is extremely helpful in getting the word out to the public that we have been formed and in energizing a potential support base.  We need all the help we can get at this early stage of our effort.  We've already received valuable preliminary support from the Calvert Marina (Matt Gambrill), the Solomons Yachting Center (Toby Horton), and DiGiovanni's (Gerri DiGiovanni) for our Adopt-a-Dock Program as well as a few generous financial contributions from several donors (including Tri-county Bank that has provided SMOCS a free account).  We're off to a strong start, but need to continue to spread the "Gospel According to SMOCS."

We need your help and will appreciate any support you can provide.
Len Zuza



 

 

 

SMOCS IS A 501(c)(3) ORGANIZATION