Public Fishery Plantings

SUPPORTING THE PUBLIC OYSTER FISHERY

Large pile of oysters on a boat deck being planted into Chesapeake Bay waters Photo credit: Jay Fleming Photography

In support of Maryland’s commercial oyster industry, ORP – in conjunction with Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MD DNR) – procures and plants wild seed, substrate, and spat-on-shell in the public fishery.

  • Wild Seed is imported from areas where seed counts are higher (usually due to higher salinity).
  • Substrate: Most shell used for plantings is currently fresh from shucking houses.
  • Spat-on-Shell is produced in a hatchery, which provides an initial, dense population of healthy oysters that otherwise would not be available.

icon boxes homepageThis “replenishment,” or activities to improve the public fishery for ecological and economic benefit, is necessary because of many factors, including historical harvest pressure, disease mortality, loss of habitat (oyster shell or other hard substrate for oysters to attach to), reduced water quality over the years, and interactions among the factors. Replenishment plantings are currently funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Transportation, revenue from the oyster bushel tax, and revenue from the purchase of an oyster surcharge from commercially licensed harvesters.

ORP strives to enhance the native oyster population and improve Chesapeake Bay health – and also support Maryland watermen and the growing seafood industry. This program enables us to meet both objectives. ORP hires watermen to transport wild seed and shell to be planted on natural oyster bars throughout Maryland’s tributaries. Annual planting amounts and locations are determined by the eleven County Oyster Committees in accordance with MD DNR protocols and final approval. ORP, on behalf of the County Oyster Committees, also coordinates the purchase, production, and planting of spat-on-shell from private producers to be planted on natural oyster bars.


Each winter, in collaboration with the MD DNR, ORP puts out RFBs to solicit bids for seed, shell, and spat-on-shell transport and plantings onto public oyster bars throughout the Maryland portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Any current RFBs will be posted here.