Text Size: A  A  A

Restoring Oyster Reefs

In 2010, habitat restoration efforts took place on 1,896 acres of oyster reefs. This brings the total acreage treated since 2007 to 4,763.

Although meeting this target is an important accomplishment, more work is needed to establish and maintain a sustainable oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

July 27, 2011

March 2013: Harris Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River on Maryland’s eastern shore, is the initial site of one of the largest restoration projects ever undertaken in the Chesapeake Bay. Interviews include Mike Naylor (Maryland Department of Natural Resources), Stephanie Reynolds Westby and Jay Lazar (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), Claire O’Neil and Jeff Price (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), Melissa Grant (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Oyster Hatchery) and Doug West (Oyster Recovery Partnership).
Closed Captions: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8TNeusghYs

Produced by Steve Droter
Music: “Room with a View” by Jahzzar


Restoring oyster reefs throughout the Bay is a primary part of the strategy for increasing the native oyster population. To rebuild reefs, both oyster shells and alternate materials for oysters to grow on are planted in the Bay. Also, oysters are grown in hatcheries and then planted in natural and man-made habitats.

Restoring reefs provides the potential to increase populations of spawning adult oysters and, in turn, larval production. Many of these rebuilt reefs are designated as oyster sanctuaries and protected from harvest.


The Bay Program has a target of implementing restoration practices on 2,466 acres of oyster bar and reef habitat between 2007 and 2010.

Amount completed since 2007 (baseline year)

Tracking in relation to a target did not begin until 2007. A cumulative total of 4,763 acres have been treated, sometimes with multiple efforts on the same site.

  • In 2007, 776 acres were treated
  • In 2008, 943 acres were treated
  • In 2009, 1,148 acres were treated
  • In 2010, 1,896 acres were treated

Prior to the target being set, a cumulative total of 15,645 acres were treated between 1994 and 2006, sometimes with multiple efforts on the same site.

Amount completed in 2010

In 2010, 1,896 acres were treated, sometimes with multiple efforts on the same site.

Additional Information

The success of oyster habitat restoration techniques has been limited by numerous factors including disease, poor water quality, habitat degradation and fishing pressure.

Oyster Restoration Partners

In spring 2008, oyster representatives from the following organizations analyzed previously reported data for the Oyster Recovery Effort indicator, which is published annually in the Bay Program’s Bay Barometer. They agreed upon realistic annual targets and a cumulative achievement goal for oyster recovery via reef restoration through 2010.

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
  • Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS)
  • Virginia Marine Resource Commission (VMRC)
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Oyster Recovery Partnership

A 2010 goal was needed for the Bay Program’s Chesapeake Action Plan Oyster Reef Restoration dashboard, which was published in the Report to Congress: Strengthening the Management, Coordination, and Accountability of the Chesapeake Bay Program in July 2008. This goal is applied to the Oyster Recovery Effort indicator so the indicator can be reported in relation to a goal.

Oyster restoration activities have been accomplished through cooperative efforts by DNR, VMRC, VIMS, NOAA, EPA, the Army Corps (Baltimore and Norfolk districts), the Potomac River Fisheries Commission, the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

410 Severn Avenue / Suite 112
Annapolis, Maryland 21403
Tel: (800) YOUR-BAY / Fax: (410) 267-5777
Directions to the Bay Program Office
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy
©2012 Chesapeake Bay Program | All Rights Reserved