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The 3-Minute Interview: Oyster advocate Stephan Abel

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Abel has been executive director of Maryland's Oyster Recovery Partnership since 2007.

Do you work to increase the oyster population?

We restore oysters on the Chesapeake Bay for both the ecological value as well as their economic value.

How do you do that?

There are different phases. What we end up doing is the physical restoration. We have many partners, like the University of Maryland in Cambridge, and we work with them to produce oyster babies and we take those babies and basically replant them out on the Bay.

Where do you get the shells?

We have a shell-recycling program with 165 restaurants. The shell is the medium we attach the baby oyster to. We put the larvae on the shell and put those on the boat and then plant them on a reef.

Do you just toss them off the boat?

We have to make sure the bottom is the right habitat. If you plant them on mud or in some unfavorable condition, the babies will die. We know via sonar what the bottom looks like and we validate it with a diver. In some instances the Army Corps of Engineers will put down some hard substance that is free of silt and sediment that we can put the oysters on.

How's the restoration going?

This past year we did 100 acres of restoration. Think of an acre as the size of a football field. It's probably the largest physical restoration on East Coast.

What do you find most interesting about your job?

When I joined the organization almost six years ago, I didn't know that much about oysters. I grew up sailing on the Bay, but my background is in marketing, public relations and management. It's just amazing to me how our organization can work and coordinate with so many different partners in order to achieve a positive outcome.

- Susan Ferrechio

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