GWYNN’s ISLAND, Va. (WRIC) — Oysters are being grown by the millions on Gwynn’s Island. But they are not for farming — they are being used to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

Todd Janeski runs the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program (VOSRP), which helps restore wild oyster populations. Janeski and his team of volunteers help recycle oyster shells. They aren’t dealing with a few oysters either – during an 8News visit, Janeski brought 8 million oyster larvae.

This process of growing oysters is very similar to what oyster farmers all around the Chesapeake Bay are doing, right now. And this process is why Virginia is the oyster capital of the east.

“So they came out of the hatchery this morning. They were filtered out and then put into this bag and chilled,” Janeski said.

Much like adding fish into an aquarium, oyster larvae need to be brought up to the temperature of the water where they will live.

“The first stage is dry acclamation for 15 to 30 minutes which warms them up to air temperature. The water temperature is 82 [degrees] so we are going from approximately 38 degrees maybe 36 degrees,” Janeski said. “So we don’t want to toss them in immediately because it will shock them.”

The next process for Janeski’s team is wet acclamation — this is when they introduce the oyster larvae to a bucket to warm them up.

“They will start to revive. And we will start to see them swimming and I will scoop out some of them into the beakers so we can watch them,” Janeski said.

As the oyster larvae begin to warm up in the water, they start swimming up and down looking to attach to something and begin the next stage of their life cycle.

“So we just broadcast the larvae in the tanks. It’s called a remote set and we broadcast them like you do grass seed. And so 8 million oysters just went into this tank. These were all recycled oyster shells, probably about 200 bushels or so,” Janeski explained.

Janeski’s team then allows the larvae to sit and attach to the shell. This process can take 14 to 20 days. After that, it’s time to take the shells with the attached oysters out to the reef in the Piankatank River.

“This year we will put back about 20 million,” Janeski said. “[In] total we will then have put back over 60 million oysters in the Piankatank.”