Eastern Oysters

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Great Shellfish of the Bay

Since colonial times, the Chesapeake (meaning "great shellfish Bay" in Algonquin) has lost more than 98 percent of its oysters. Gone are the days when oyster reefs posed navigational hazards to Chesapeake Bay explorers or watermen pulled 17 million bushels of oysters each year. Now, Maryland and Virginia watermen and the seafood industry have lost $4 billion in income in the past 30 years alone. But as recent studies find, all is not lost.

A two-month Maryland Department of Natural Resources survey conducted in 2011 revealed higher levels of oyster reproduction and a lower mortality rate. In fact, Chesapeake Bay oysters seem to be growing heartier and more robust. Given that each adult oyster filters and cleans up to 50 gallons of water per day—gobbling up algae, and removing dirt and nitrogen pollution—that's good news for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and for us.

After a devastating bout with disease in the late 1980s combined with decades of overharvesting, habitat destruction, and water pollution, the oyster was hanging on by a thread. "That was a turning point really," says CBF Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough, "because up until that point, for the previous 100 years, oysters had supported the most valuable fishery in the Chesapeake Bay."

Now, thanks to increased awareness, extensive restoration efforts such as CBF's citizen oyster-gardening program and reef ball production, resisting the introduction of a non-native oyster species, and favorable weather conditions, there is hope for the mighty oyster yet.

Learn more about CBF's oyster restoration efforts.

Support Efforts to Restore Three-Dimensional Reefs to the Bay

SPREAD the word to your neighbors and friends about how important oysters are to the health of the waters and wildlife of the Bay.

SHARE your support for oyster recovery—and especially the unique value of vertical reefs—by writing a letter in your local paper or to state officials responsible for oyster restoration.

VOLUNTEER with CBF's active oyster restoration program by building reef balls, cleaning shells, or becoming an oyster gardener. Visit cbf.org/oysters
for more info.

MAKE A DONATION to support our oyster restoration program by giving the gift of oysters from our online Giving Catalog at cbf.org/catalog.

Multimedia

  • Rock On, Girls!

    In this episode, CBF President Will Baker talks with Hannah Herron and Taegan Duncan, two student leaders who participated in CBF's "50 Forward" summer experience.

  • The Snowball Effect

    In this episode, CBF President Will Baker talks with 90-year-old volunteer Walter Zadan about his valuable work supporting oyster restoration.

  • Oysters Win, Trees Hold

    CBF President Will Baker and Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost discuss the results of this year's general session, which wrapped up April 10, 2017.

  • Part 5 Pushed to the Brink

    This segment of CBF‘s "The Incredible Oyster Reef" warns of the threats facing the Chesapeake Bay's iconic native oyster.

  • Part 4 Filtering Factories

    This segment of CBF’s “The Incredible Oyster Reef“ shows the remarkable contribution oysters can play in improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

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