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Native Oyster Health

A new oyster health indicator will be developed in the future.

July 22, 2011

Oysters are one of the most recognizable species in the Chesapeake Bay, and one of the most important to the health of its ecosystem. Don “Mutt” Meritt from the University of Maryland explains the environmental role that oysters play and describes what scientists are doing to restore the iconic bivalve. Learn more about blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s online Field Guide.

Produced by Steve Droter
Stock Footage: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Oyster Hatchery
Music: “A Moment of Jazz” by Ancelin


Oysters are a valuable species because they improve water quality, provide habitat for aquatic life and contribute to the region’s economy.

Oysters filter water as they feed, which increases water clarity. It is estimated that at their historic population peak, oysters filtered all of the Bay’s water in less than one week. It takes about one year for the current population to do so.

Oysters have also constituted one of the Bay’s most valuable commercial fisheries for more than a century. Pollution, historic overharvesting, and the diseases MSX and Dermo have caused the oyster population to decline severely.


The CBP previously had a goal to achieve a tenfold increase in native oysters based on 1994 levels.

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