How Does Oyster Restoration Work?

It’s still dark when the ORP field crew begins the last spat deployment of 2012.

There are two types of reefs in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay that include oyster sanctuaries, or reefs that are protected from harvesting and public shellfish fishery areas, or harvest bars, that are fished from October to March. While the Oyster Recovery Partnership rebuilds both harvest and sanctuary reefs, the majority of our efforts focus on rehabilitating or rebuilding oyster reefs in sanctuaries.

Click below for a summary of planting in the Chesapeake Bay region:

 Millions of Oyster Plantings Per Site 1998-2014 

Check out other oyster restoration work around the country.

Over the last decade, ORP and its restoration partners have increased their efficiency, effectiveness and capacity in producing and planting oysters. Currently, ORP has embarked on the largest oyster restoration project ever seen on the East Coast, in Harris Creek — a tributary of the Bay’s Choptank River. This project is focused on rehabilitating hundreds of acres of oyster habitat to population levels last seen decades ago. To learn more about the Harris Creek restoration project, click here. ORP is confident that our restoration process works, now we are attempting to do even more with less.

ORP has facilitated numerous oyster restoration projects around the Chesapeake Bay over the past two decades as part of a coalition of federal and state agencies, nonprofit organizations and academic institutions including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, University of Maryland Horn Point Lab Oyster HatcheryU.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore DistrictMaryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Watermen’s Association. ORP staff also supported development of the Harris Creek Oyster Restoration Tributary Plan, which details the restoration site selection process and the reef construction, seeding, and monitoring required to bring Harris Creek in line with the oyster metrics definition of a successfully restored tributary.

What is ORP’s Role?   

Nearly 20 years ago, ORP was commissioned as a coalition of partners that contribute toward a large-scale restoration program that plants disease-free oysters back into the Bay. Specifically, ORP facilitates wide-ranging interests, including scientists, conservationists, watermen, businesses, government, as well as state and local partners, to work together to make oyster restoration a reality. “Large-scale restoration” includes the use of cutting-edge technology and machinery, site preparation, mass plantings, habitat protection and monitoring.

As a result of this successful partnership, more than 5 billion oysters have been planted on 1,600 acres of oyster reefs and approximately 1,400 tons of shell have been recycled to provide homes for new oysters. As Maryland’s leading nonprofit restoring oysters in the Chesapeake Bay,  ORP also operates the region’s Shell Recycling Alliance, supports the State’s Marylanders Grow Oysters program and provides shellfish aquaculture and fishery support services.