Oyster Restoration

Oyster restoration - restored reef in Chesapeake Bay

Why Oyster Restoration is Important

Oysters are incredible creatures that provide important ecosystem services. Oysters are “filter feeders”  that filter excess nutrients and other pollutants from the water. In fact, a single, healthy adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day! Oysters are also known as a keystone species in the Chesapeake Bay. Their reefs provide valuable habitat, food, and protection for other marine animals and plants such that they would be negatively effected if oysters disappeared.

In 2014, the Chesapeake Bay Program – a partnership of federal, state, and local governments, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations – committed to restore oyster populations in ten Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025, five in Maryland and five in Virginia. In Maryland, the Tred Avon, Little Choptank, Manokin, and the Upper St. Mary’s Rivers, as well as Harris Creek are the targets of this large-scale work.


Status of Oyster Restoration in Maryland

The Oyster Recovery Partnership is proud to lead the oyster restoration efforts in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. ORP helps design and implement large-scale restoration projects that maximize the ecosystem services that oysters provide.

In Maryland, ORP is on track to meet the ‘5 by 2025’ goal, restoring billions of oysters to Bay waters! Since 1998, ORP has planted more than 9 billion juvenile oysters on 3,000 acres of permanently restored sanctuaries, areas protected by state law and where harvesting cannot occur. Sanctuary reefs have the best chance of forming the natural, three-dimensional structures that provide habitat for Chesapeake Bay marine life and ecosystem services such as water quality improvement.

ORP and its partners have completed restoration in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank which are the largest man-made reefs in the world.

The restoration process is complex and relies on the work of our partners who supply oyster larvae, identify areas that will sustain successful reefs, and monitor reefs after construction. Click for more information on the restoration process and projects: