Operation Build a Reef


Oysters play a critical role in improving the Chesapeake Bay’s health. To help their populations increase Bay-wide, in 2018 ORP developed a special program called Operation Build-a-Reef. Build-a-Reef empowers the public, through grassroots fundraising, to put oysters back into their local waterways (onto sanctuaries where they will filter water and create beneficial habitat for other species). A successful Build-a-Reef campaign relies on partnership with a local nonprofit conservation partner that understands the community’s wants and can inspire action. To date, ORP has worked with three different conservation groups to plant more than 115 million oysters in three different waterways! 

2023 Build-a-Reef Campaigns

Learn about the Build-a-Reef campaigns taking place this summer – and consider making a donation to to create healthy oyster reefs in these locations. Funds contributed directly support the production, transport, and planting  of oysters back into the Chesapeake Bay!

Oysters and water run through the side of the Build a Reef planting vessel on Friday, August 20, 2021

Operation Build-a-Reef: Severn River

in partnership with the Severn River Association

Operation Build a Reef: Eastern Bay

in partnership with ShoreRivers


Oysters planted as part of Operation Build-a-Reef in 2020 - sampled from Wade || reef on May 15, 2021Build-a-Reef Impact

  • 2022: 75 million oysters planted in Eastern Bay in partnership with Shore Rivers and funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. 30 million oysters were planted at Chink’s Point in the Severn River in partnership with the Severn River Association.
  • 2021: With partners from the Severn River Association, 24 million juvenile oysters planted on the Traces Hollow reef on the north side of the Route 50 bridge in Annapolis, MD. An additional 650,000 spat-on-shell were planted in Herring Bay thanks to local partners from the Advocates for Herring Bay.
  • 2020: In partnership with Severn River Association, 16.9 million spat-on-shell found their new homes on reefs near Weems Creek
  • 2018: 45.1 million juvenile oysters were planted on protected oyster sanctuaries between the Severn River and Naval Academy Bridges in Annapolis, MD.