Ice Breaks Off Floating Oyster Cages. Now They’re Dangerously Loose on the Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is putting the APB out on oyster floats. Ice combined with high wind on the Chesapeake Bay to snap off an estimated 175 floating cages near Tangier Island.

This is the same island that was frozen off from the world by a crusty-topped Bay, trapping an estimated 500 residents. They were rescued by Coast Guard and Maryland icebreaking ships.

That same ice is now whacking away at their livelihood, as the traps mingle with the floating ice pack. CFP spokesman Chuck Epes told the DailyPress that some traps washed up at Virginia Beach, along Cape Henry and the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They’re tangling around pilings and other things as they float their way south through the lower Chesapeake and out the mouth of the Bay to the ocean.

Choptank River oyster farming
An example of oyster-farming cages. These were on the Choptank River. The escaped cages have black floats. (Photo courtesy Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

WVTF Public Radio reports the cages are owned by the Tangier Island Oyster Company, a group of 38 Richmond-based investors that includes former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The company joined resources with Tangier Island watermen and the CBF to farm oysters.

Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) and the U.S. Coast Guard have been snagging the cages out of the water and officials are asking other watermen and boaters on the Bay to do the same.

oyster cage
Recovered oyster cage (Photo courtesy Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

They’ve found more than 70 of the missing oyster cages. Officials are asking watermen and boaters to keep an eye out for floating cages. They’re three-feet square, attached to black plastic floats and contain growing oysters.

If anyone finds one, keep them in water and contact Tommy Leggett at CBF at 804-815-7982 or at tleggett@cbf.org.

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