At its December 2017 meeting, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team selected two sites in Virginia to undergo oyster restoration, the Greater Wicomico River and Lower York River. Extensive stakeholder input and scientific study went into making this decision.
As part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, partners committed to restore native oyster habitat and populations in 10 tributaries by 2025 and ensure their protection. Two additional waterways in Maryland, the upper St. Mary’s River and Breton Bay, were recommended for oyster restoration, but further research and input is needed before they can be approved.
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.
Update: This article originally incorrectly stated that the upper St. Mary’s River and Breton Bay were chosen as Maryland's final two tributaries for oyster restoration.