Chesapeake Oyster Restoration Expanded

Maryland’s 2011 Oyster Restoration Efforts Continue to Expand

 October 3, 2011

In celebration of the “From the Bay, For the Bay” regional sustainability campaign, the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) today announced their oyster restoration outcomes in the Chesapeake Bay for the 2011 season. ORP’s oyster restoration activities include a multi-faceted process of collecting, aging and cleaning oyster shells, as well as planting spat on shell (baby oysters) — which the UMCES Horn Point Hatchery produces – back into the Bay.


For the 2011 Season, the Oyster Recovery Partnership will have planted 510 million disease-free, native oyster spat on shell on over 315 acres in 6 tributaries and processed more than 70,000 bushels of shell – the fourth year over 500 million oysters have been produced by  the UMCES facility in Cambridge, MD.


ORP’s restoration partners are paramount to the program’s success and include the Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), NOAA, University of Maryland’s Paynter Lab, Maryland Waterman’s Association, Army Corps of Engineers and Chesapeake Bay Foundation.


“The importance of partners working together cannot be underestimated, whether it’s through the From the Bay, For the Bay promotion or through Maryland’s oyster restoration activities,” said Stephan Abel, Executive Director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership. “Each partner brings valuable insight, expertise and support to the program, which makes it all able to run smoothly.”


The Oyster Recovery Partnership’s most publically-recognized program – the region’s oyster Shell Recycling Alliance, launched by the Partnership in 2010 — is made up of nearly 100 restaurants, caterers and seafood distributors from the DC, Maryland and Virginia region, as well as citizen volunteers who collect donated used oyster shells from these businesses to aid in restoring the Chesapeake Bay. For the 2011 season, ORP collected more than 10,000 bushels of shell – a 140% increase over its’ inaugural year of 4,200 bushels. 


“Oyster shell is a limited resource and a critical element in the State’s oyster restoration efforts,” said Abel.  “Under the Presidential Executive Order 13508 to restore 20 tributaries by 2025, our goal as a coalition of partners is to ramp up oyster restoration operations to produce and plant one to two billion spat on shell per year. This increase in production will require at least 200,000 bushels of aged and cleaned shell each year, so we need every shell we can get.”


The Shell Recycling Alliance has quickly grown to provide 15% of the State of Maryland’s shell needs at current oyster production levels, prolonging the State’s limited shell reserves.


The “From the Bay, For the Bay” celebration will assist in providing necessary funding to continue large-scale restoration effort. Each participating establishment in the campaign will donate $1.00 to the Oyster Recovery Partnership for every Maryland seafood dinner sold from October 2-9, 2011. Every $1.00 donation allows ORP to recycle 15 shells and plant them with 100 baby oysters attached back into the Bay.


“From the Bay, For the Bay is great for a trifecta of reasons: it promotes Maryland’s delicious seafood, supports our hardworking watermen, seafood restaurants and other businesses, and gives back to the Bay to restore our Bay’s native oyster population,”  said Steve Vilnit, DNR Commercial Fisheries Outreach and Marketing Manager. “We encourage everyone to get out this week to enjoy their favorite Maryland seafood dish – or try something new!”


“With the Chesapeake Bay touching the lives of so many people, not only in the community but in our restaurant family, it is a true honor to be part of such a wonderful cause with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources benefiting the Oyster Recovery Partnership,” said Perry Smith, Matchbox food Group Principal Partner.


Over the last century, the Chesapeake Bay has seen a dramatic decline of its native oyster population. A healthy oyster reef not only filters the Bay’s dirty waters, but also provides crucial habitat for an underwater community that furnishes valuable life support for blue crabs and fish. 


“Oyster restoration is a top priority for NOAA in the Chesapeake Bay because oysters filter water and provide fish habitat,” said Stephanie Westby, Chesapeake Oyster Restoration Program Manager, NOAA Restoration Center. “Oyster Recovery Partnership is a key partner in implementing in-water projects. This year, we are proud to be supporting the work of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and ORP with a $1.2 million grant to seed sanctuary oyster reefs.”


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