ORP’s role in oyster restoration

Oyster restoration is part of the mission of ORP, which was founded to address the dramatic decline in Chesapeake Bay oysters. Although a hearty species, the Bay oyster population declined through decades of pressure from harvesting, pollution and disease. The restoration of this single species is important for the entire Bay. In the Chesapeake, the nation’s largest estuary, the oyster plays a vital role in habitat restoration because oyster reefs purify waterways and create ideal habitats for a multitude of commercial and recreational species.

ORP is involved in oyster restoration projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Along with our partners, we have planted more than 5 billion oysters on 1,600 acres of oyster reefs and recycled 30,000 bushels of shell to provide homes for new oysters. We work with scientists to learn better ways to grow oysters and restore oyster reefs. We partner with businesses to promote the economic value of oysters and oyster shell recycling. We educate the public in their role in preserving and restoring oysters. We work with lawmakers and regulators to support new ways to encourage oyster restoration.

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 also part of the Maryland Interagency Oyster Workgroup,which developed the Little Choptank River Oyster Restoration Tributary Plan to guide oyster restoration there. The workgroup is currently developing a Tributary Plan for the Tred Avon River, also in the Choptank River system on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

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

Millions of Oyster Plantings Per Site 1998-2014

Check out other oyster restoration work around the country.

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.