by Rachel Felver
January 24, 2018
At its December 2017 meeting, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team selected four sites in Maryland and Virginia to undergo oyster restoration.
As part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, partners committed restore native oyster habitat and populations in 10 tributaries by 2025 and ensure their protection. With the addition of these four waterways, the partnership has now designated the ten tributaries for restoration.
The Greater Wicomico River and Lower York River were selected in Virginia, while the upper St. Mary’s River and Breton Bay were chosen in Maryland. Extensive stakeholder input and scientific study went into making these decisions.
Oysters are one of the Bay’s most valuable commercial fisheries, and as filter-feeders, help to clean our waters and provide food and habitat to other animals. These efforts for restoration are necessary because over-harvesting, disease and habitat loss have led to a severe decline in population over the past two centuries.
Currently, six other tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay are in various stages of restoration. The process includes developing a tributary restoration plan, constructing and seeding reefs, and monitoring and evaluating the restored reefs. The monitoring and evaluating step is what will ultimately determine success.
“These restoration recommendations strike the right balance between the environment and the economy by concentrating limited yet targeted resources on existing sanctuaries with the most potential for success, based on the best available science,” said Mark Belton, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “These two sites have the broad support of environmentalists and riverkeepers as well as county leaders and watermen.”