20 Million Oysters Planted in the Severn River Thanks to Operation Build A Reef


Significant grassroots support meant the 2021 oyster planting effort exceeded its fundraising goal.

ANNAPOLIS, MD — Last Friday, August 20th, the Severn River Association (SRA) and Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) celebrated the planting of 23.89 million juvenile oysters in the Severn River, funded through the Operation Build a Reef campaign. The oysters found their new home on the Traces Hollow reef on the north side of the Route 50 bridge near Jonas Green Park. The grassroots fundraiser provided a unique opportunity for the public to buy bushels of spat-on-shell to enhance water-filtering oyster reefs within their local river. The campaign exceeded a planting goal of 20 million oysters and fundraising goal of $30,000, planting nearly 24 million oysters and raising more than $38,000. The excess funds will be applied to the 2022 Build a Reef effort.

“The Build a Reef program is a proven success,” said Ward Slacum, executive director of Oyster Recovery Partnership. “This is the third year that the campaign has generated enough public support to plant millions of additional oysters in the river. Community stewardship is proving to be a powerful tool to bring about positive changes for the Severn!”

In 2018, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources planted 40 million oysters in the Severn, which was the catalyst for Operation Build a Reef. Since then, grassroots fundraising has contributed another 45 million oysters to Annapolis’ scenic river.

Oysters planted as part of Operation Build-a-Reef in 2020 - sampled from Wade || reef on May 15, 2021“Our oyster monitoring results are very encouraging. SRA’s oyster dive team sampled oysters from five restoration reefs this summer. Preliminary results indicate that the oysters on the Wade Reef in particular, where we planted 16.9 million oyster spat, are doing very well. We’ll soon have a full report on oyster survivability, growth rates, density and abundance,” said Erik Kreifeldt, president of the Severn River Association (SRA). “The Build-a-Reef restoration program is a key part of the SRA’s commitment to continue re-populating viable oyster reefs throughout the Severn.”

Title sponsor Smyth Jewelers not only donated funds to support this year’s planting, they “married” engagement ring sales to Build a Reef by planting 1,000 oysters for every ring sold. “We loved the idea of supporting our community while also giving our customers an extra special reason to celebrate a milestone in their lives,” said Bob Yanega, chief financial officer and vice president of operations.

The 2021 Build a Reef was funded solely through grassroots donations from individuals, families, and local businesses, as well as the M&T Charitable Foundation, and the Delaplaine Foundation. The program was made possible by the Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery, who diligently worked to spawn oysters, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources who provided in-kind support, and the Severn River Association who educated and engaged the local community.

ORP created Operation Build-a-Reef to help Marylanders support smaller oyster restoration projects within their local rivers. For more information on this campaign, visit buildareef.org.

Contact: Allison Albert Guercio, Marketing Manager, aaguercio @ oysterrecovery.org or 443.239.0685