Oysters

Oysters are natural filter-feeders that clean our waters, provide other animals with food and habitat, and make up one of the region's most valuable fisheries.

Ten Chesapeake Bay tributaries have been selected for oyster reef restoration. Use the map above to track the progress of each restoration project.

Oysters

For more than a century, oysters have made up one of the region's most valuable commercial fisheries. While the filter-feeder continues to clean our water and offer food and habitat to other animals, over-harvesting, disease, pollution and habitat loss have led to a severe drop in oyster populations.

50

The amount of water, in gallons, that one adult oyster can filter in a day under certain conditions

Today, native oysters populations are at less than 1% of historic levels. In the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, the Chesapeake Bay Program set a goal to restore reefs and populations in ten tributaries by 2025, and ensure their protection. The following ten tributaries were selected for oyster restoration: Harris Creek, the Little Choptank River, Tred Avon, upper St. Mary's and Manokin rivers in Maryland, and the Great Wicomico, Lafayette, Lower York, Lynnhaven and Piankatank rivers in Virginia. The Sustainable Fisheries GIT approved the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River in Virginia as an eleventh bonus tributary in 2020.

Each tributary that has been selected for oyster restoration is at a different level of progress in a process that involves developing a tributary restoration plan, constructing and seeding reefs, and monitoring and evaluating restored reefs. As of 2021, six tributaries have been restored toward the ten tributaries goal (Harris Creek, Little Choptank River, and the Tred Avon River in Maryland and the Lafayette, Piankatank, and Great Wicomico rivers in Virginia), in addition to the eleventh bonus tributary, the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River. Restoration work is under way in the remaining four tributaries under this goal (the upper St. Mary’s and Manokin rivers in Maryland and the Lower York and Lynnhaven rivers in Virginia).

To learn more about our progress toward restoring oyster habitat and populations in ten Bay tributaries, visit www.ChesapeakeProgress.com.