Oyster Restoration

A partnership is to bring oysters back to the Bay

In the summer of 1993, the state of Maryland brought together a panel of 40 experts made up of elected officials, organizations, and institutions like University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. This was the Oyster Roundtable, and its members’ mission was to address the troubled oyster population in Chesapeake Bay. Diseases, harvesting, and poor water quality were devastating the Chesapeake Bay oyster, a key species that dated back centuries.

That December they released a 30-page Action Plan for Oyster Recovery. The action plan detailed a series of critical next steps and laid the foundation for the restoration program now underway at Horn Point Laboratory’s oyster culture facility and elsewhere in UMCES and the founding of the Oyster Recovery Partnership in 1994. Restoration partners include the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Breaking records

The oyster culture facility staff works every year to continually increase the number of spat on shell it can produce. In 2013, the facility and its restoration partners set a record producing more than 1.2 billion oysters. It was the first time any oyster hatchery nationwide has produced more than 1 billion Eastern oyster spat in a single season.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership successfully processed the necessary shell and deployed more than 700 million hatchery-produced oyster spat to Harris Creek as part of the innovative sanctuary program that year. The remaining 500 million spat were produced as part of a program designed to train watermen to produce oyster seed for use in their oyster farming operations or was used to enhance the public oyster fishery. Some production was also used as part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters program and by other conservation groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as part of their localized oyster recovery efforts.

With continued improvements of their craft, Horn Point has been able to break the record it sets. In 2016, it produced 1.78 billion spat on shell.