Oyster Restoration

Photo by CBF StaffVolunteers plant young oysters on an oyster reef. Photo by CBF Staff

Getting the Community Involved

CBF's oyster restoration programs offer citizens the tools and information needed to help restore native oysters, Crassostrea virginica, to the Chesapeake. Until the 1980s, oysters supported the most valuable fishery in the Bay. Today, as a result of decades of pollution, overharvesting, and disease, the Bay's native oyster population has been estimated at as low as one percent of historic levels.

Yet oysters remain a keystone species in the Bay's ecology. They filter algae, sediment, and other pollutants and in the process improve water quality and clarity. Their large reefs provide habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay organisms. Restoration is critical to help improve the Bay's water quality and increase its economic viability.

See program information below or program links to the left.

Maryland Oyster Gardening Program

CBF's Oyster Gardening Program gives people the opportunity to help bring back this vital species by growing oysters alongside their docks. Once grown, the adult oysters are returned to CBF for planting on sanctuary reefs. READ MORE

Baltimore Inner Harbor Oyster Gardening Video from coolgreenschools.comThis link will take you to view the video on www.coolgreenschools.com

Oyster Gardening in the Inner Harbor

In September 2014, CBF and the Waterfront Partnership expanded their oyster restoration program, formally kicking off The Greater Baltimore Oyster Partnership.  Plans for 2014 are to grow 165,00 baby oysters in Baltimore's Inner Harbor with the help of local residents.  Check it out with this video on CoolGreenSchools.com.

The organizations tested out the program in October 2013 as part of the Healthy Harbor Initiative to create a swimmable and fishable Harbor. Members of the local business community planted 85,000 oyster spat in five designated oyster gardens around Baltimore's Inner Harbor. While oysters in the wild often see only a one percent survival rate due to predation and low oxygen levels, the spat grown by the Oyster Partnership maintained a 70 percent survival rate and increased 40 percent in size.

"With more than 50,000 oysters grown in the Harbor and planted on the reef at Fort Carroll, along with the incredible support we received from the local community, expanding the program was the obvious next step," said Adam Lindquist, Healthy Harbor project manager for the Waterfront Partnership.

"There's just so much excitement and opportunity around growing more oysters in the Harbor," said Terry Cummings, director of CBF's Baltimore Initiative. "We are thrilled to have new partners, the Downtown Sailing Center and the Baltimore Marine Centers, joining us for this expansion. We look forward to seeing the program grow and grow."

This year members of public are participating, building their own cages and learning how to be oyster gardeners. Their cages will be deployed along the piers of the Downtown Sailing Center and Baltimore Marine Centers' Lighthouse Point. Businesses sponsoring oyster gardens and providing volunteers who will tend to the cages include Brown Advisory, BGE/Constellation, Legg Mason and T.Rowe Price, all of whom participated last year, as well as engineering, architectural and planning firm Whitman, Requardt & Associates, LLP who is new to the program.

"Our boaters are always looking for an opportunity to give back to the Chesapeake Bay," said Jessie Bowling, director of sales and marketing at Baltimore Marine Centers. "The partnership is a perfect way for our boaters to get involved and make an impact."

In the spring, all of the volunteers will pull out their mature oysters and plant them on an oyster reef near Fort Carroll.

Collecting oyster shells for CBFs Save Oyster Shell program. Photo by CBF Staff.Collecting oyster shells for CBFs Save Oyster Shell program. Photo by CBF Staff.

Save Oyster Shell

Save Oyster Shell logoThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) needs your help—and your oyster shells—to restore native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Donate your empty shells to CBF so we can recycle them into more oyster reefs and repopulate the Bay with more oysters.  Oyster shells are literally the foundation of our reef restoration efforts!

Oyster shells are becoming increasingly scarce.  Through CBF's Save Oyster Shell program, shells that would typically be thrown away are saved and used in a variety of oyster restoration projects.


Volunteers build reef balls at CBF Maryland Oyster Restoration Center. Photo by CBF Staff.Volunteers build reef balls at CBF Maryland Oyster Restoration Center. Photo by CBF Staff.

Shady Side Oyster Restoration Center

In support of re-establishing this keystone species, CBF has established the Maryland Oyster Restoration Center (ORC) in Shady Side. The ORC houses several large tanks used in growing juvenile oysters. It is also home to CBF's restoration vessel Patricia Campbell. This 60-foot boat transports and places hatchery-produced seed oysters onto sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland waters. 

We rely very heavily on volunteer help to make our oyster restoration program work and we are always looking for volunteers.  

Read More

In the News

11.24.15 - Audio available Is Climate Change a Threat to Oyster Dressing?

11.23.15 - Recycling program aims to repurpose Virginia oyster shells

11.23.15 - Oyster Expo airs fishery woes

11.09.15 - 'Oyster Expo' set for Easton Nov. 18

10.22.15 - Oyster restoration effort underway in Patapsco River

10.22.15 - Baltimore Oyster Partnership to Plant 5 Million Baby Oysters by 2020

10.21.15 - 5 million oysters to be planted in the Patapsco River by 2020

10.20.15 - Saturday: The Great Baltimore Oyster Festival

10.12.15 - Large-scale oyster restoration under way in 6 tributaries

10.06.15 - Harris Creek reef restoration at 350 acres, is largest ever

09.23.15 - Scientists say Maryland's gigantic new oyster reef is a pearl that could save the Chesapeake Bay

09.15.15 - A final oyster planting in Harris Creek

09.13.15 - For Chesapeake Bay Foundation manager, the oyster is her world

07.17.15 - Crews replenishing Wicomico oyster reefs

07.14.15 - Group collects shells in effort to save the Chesapeake Bay

07.13.15 - Corps begin rebuilding Great Wicomico sanctuary reef

06.09.15 - Workshop being held Tuesday for volunteer oyster gardeners

06.03.15 - Video Joe's Job: Oyster Restoration

05.27.15 - Watermen win changes to oyster reef restoration

05.27.15 - Video Thousands of oysters find new home in the Lafayette River

05.27.15 - New law aims to protect oyster farms from poachers

05.22.15 - Train to be an Oyster Farmer

05.14.15 - Oyster restoration continues in Tred Avon

05.12.15 - Scientist to speak on oyster restoration

04.14.15 - Lowly oyster says a lot about health of Chesapeake Bay

04.08.15 - Tuscarora High biology students plan to protect the oysters

04.05.15 - Tangier oystermen thank those who helped them recover lost oyster cages

You may also be interested in:
  • S.O.S. - Save Oyster Shell Donate your empty shells to CBF so we can recycle them into more oyster reefs and repopulate the Bay with more oysters.
  • A New Day for Oysters Maryland's Harris Creek is host to one of the largest oyster restoration projects ever undertaken in the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Building a Future for the Chesapeake's Oysters Today, there are important new reasons for hope for the Chesapeake Bay's keystone species.
  • Great Shellfish of the Bay Now, thanks to increased awareness, extensive restoration efforts, resisting the introduction of a non-native oyster species, and favorable weather conditions, there is hope for the mighty oyster yet.
  • Maryland Oyster Restoration Center CBF's Oyster Restoration Center serves as the central location for all of CBF’s oyster restoration activities in Maryland.

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