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Twenty years ago, the Oyster Recovery Partnership was commissioned as a cooperative coalition of multiple partners that contribute to a large-scale restoration program to plant disease-free oysters back into the Chesapeake Bay. As a result, nearly 5.8 billion oysters have been planted on 2,200 acres of oyster reefs and 66,000 bushels of shell have been recycled to provide homes for new oysters. As Maryland’s leading nonprofit restoring oysters in the Bay, the ORP also operates the region’s Shell Recycling Alliance, supports the state’s Marylanders Grow Oysters program and provides shellfish aquaculture and fishery support services.
The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that plans, promotes and implements science-based and sustainable shellfish restoration, aquaculture and wild fishery activities to protect our environment, support our economy and preserve our cultural heritage.
The Bay oyster industry was the envy of the world until the oyster stock collapsed nearly 50 years ago because of disease, habitat loss, declining water quality and historic over-harvesting.
In the summer of 1993, the state of Maryland convened the Oyster Roundtable — a coalition of 40 organizations, institutions, elected officials, businesses and individuals — to address the major concerns about oyster stocks in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and formulate a plan for promoting recovery. Roundtable members reached a consensus and published an Action Plan for Oyster Recovery in Maryland.
One outcome of the plan was the creation of the ORP. In 1994, the mission of the Chesapeake Appreciation, Inc. — a Maryland based 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization created in 1972 — was expanded to implement the objectives of the Oyster Roundtable Action Plan and coordinate the efforts of a diverse group of oyster restoration partners. The new organization established, built and strengthened cooperative oyster restoration efforts among state and federal governmental agencies, scientists, watermen and conservation organizations, resulting in a coordinated, focused, large-scale restoration program.
The ORP works with individual experts and management agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, to assist with the monumental task of oyster restoration, monitoring and adaptive management. Experts include environmental organizations, such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and Maryland watermen, who have the necessary boats, equipment and knowledge of the Bay to bring local experience and expertise to our projects.
ORP’s restoration program would not be possible without the hardworking expert scientists and hatchery crew from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Lab Hatchery, who have substantially increased oyster hatchery capabilities to reach record-breaking spat-on-shell production numbers year after year. Our teams know that the restoration methods we employ are effective and are now working on refining the process to do even more with less.
Oyster Advisory Commission
In 2009, the Oyster Advisory Commission — a group of 21 scientists, watermen, anglers, businessmen, economists, environmental advocates and elected officials — was convened to advise the state on strategies related to rebuilding and managing the oyster population in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay. Building on past restoration knowledge and success, this group released its 2008 Legislative Report to offer a multi-faceted strategy for restoring the Bay’s native oyster population and revitalizing Maryland’s troubled oyster industry. Learn more about the discussions and outcomes of the Oyster Advisory Commission.