Two Local Nonprofits to Plant 20 Million Oysters in Severn River this Summer


The Severn River Association (SRA) and the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) have launched Operation Build-a-Reef: Severn River, a campaign to raise $30,000 from the community to plant 20 million oysters on established reefs in the Severn River this summer. The Build-a-Reef partners received support from Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley, State Senator Sarah Elfreth, and State Senator Ed Reilly at a press conference at Jonas Green Park. This is the third time the Annapolis-based nonprofits have joined forces to rebuild oyster populations in the waterway.

Severn River Build-a-Reef targets restoration on 11 reefs in the lower part of the River, between the Naval Academy and Route 50 bridges. In 2018, with support from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the SRA and ORP planted 45.1 million juvenile oysters. Enough private funds were raised in 2019 – 2020 to plant an additional 16.9 million spat-on-shell.

“Our goal is to create a sustainable oyster population in the Severn River,” said SRA President Erik Kreifeldt, “one that aids the health of the water by filtering harmful pollutants and providing critical habitat.” In 1911, when the SRA was founded, there were dozens of oyster reefs in the Severn. Over time, declining water quality, overfishing, and disease contributed to the collapse of the population. Recent environmental and regulatory advances have seen water quality improvements and opportunities to add millions of young oysters back to the River.

“It’s pretty remarkable what the oyster can do,” noted ORP Executive Director Ward Slacum. “A mature oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. We’re partnering with SRA because of their long-term commitment to restoring water quality.”

Oyster restoration is a key component of the state’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup strategy. In addition to the Severn River, the state has targeted five other rivers in the Bay for oyster restoration.  “The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is proud to support innovative and effective partnerships such as our work with ORP on the Severn River,” Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio said. “Working together, we are able to maximize our investments, create more reef habitat, and plant more spat-on-shell which ultimately means more oysters filtering our waterways.”

Smyth Jewelers is supporting Operation Build-a-Reef: Severn River as title sponsor. The jewelry chain has committed to planting 1,000 oysters in the River for every engagement ring sold now through September 30. “We are so honored to be partnering with ORP and SRA on the Build-a-Reef campaign. The Chesapeake watershed is an integral part of our beloved Maryland’s future, and we are committed to helping this cause.” said Bob Yanega, Chief Financial Officer of Smyth Jewelers

Donations to the Build-a-Reef campaign will be matched thanks to funds generated during the 2020 Bay Paddle. Every contribution up to $10,000, regardless of size, will plant double the number of oysters. Local businesses are encouraged to contact the SRA and ORP to explore sponsorship opportunities.

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