Maryland Oyster Restoration Center

MD ORC w Patricia Campbell RebeccaLong 1171x593

CBF's oyster restoration vessel, Patricia Campbell, lifts a crate of spat-on-shell--grown in our Maryland Oyster Restoration Center tanks (background)--in preparation for planting on an oyster reef.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Long/CBF Staff

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation recognizes that saving the Bay is uniquely tied to restoring the native Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. The Bay's native oyster population has been estimated at as low as one percent of historic levels, making restoration critical to help improve the Bay’s water quality and increase its economic viability.

In support of re-establishing this keystone species, CBF established its Maryland Oyster Restoration Center (ORC) in 2002. The ORC houses several large tanks for use in producing juvenile oysters, called 'spat.' It is also home to CBF's restoration vessel Patricia Campbell. The 60-foot boat transports and places hatchery-produced seed oysters onto sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland waters and carries oyster shell and other materials for reef construction. The ORC serves as the central location for all of CBF’s oyster restoration activities in Maryland.

What We Do at the ORC

Oyster Setting

ORC houses several large tanks for use in producing juvenile oysters, called 'spat.' These setting tanks are loaded with oyster shell, and then filled with Bay water. Oyster larvae, usually produced by the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory, are then released into the tanks. After a few days, these larvae attach, or 'set,' onto the old oyster shells, at which point they are called 'spat.' CBF and our volunteers produce millions of spat at ORC each year, and transplant them onto restored sanctuary reefs.

Restoration Vessel Patricia Campbell

ORC is also the home port of the innovative oyster restoration vessel Patricia Campbell. With its state-of-the-art technology, it is the most advanced vessel in the Bay being used for oyster restoration. Using the Patricia Campbell, CBF staff builds reefs and plants them with juvenile oysters. Among the vessel's highlights is its custom conveyor belt system for planting reef material and oysters with pin-point accuracy. This helps the crew build oyster reefs to exact specifications. Learn more about the Patricia Campbell.

Oyster Restoration Programs

Oyster Gardening

CBF's Oyster Gardening program allows citizens and students to grow oysters alongside their docks. Gardeners raise the oysters from 'spat' to adult, and eventually plant them onto sanctuary oyster reefs. ORC serves as a hub for the Oyster Gardening program, and ORC volunteers help produce juvenile oysters and pre-cut materials for the program. Check our Maryland Oyster Gardening program page for more information and to find out how you can become an oyster gardener.

Save Oyster Shells

Oyster shells are becoming increasingly scarce. Through CBF's Save Oyster Shells program, shells that would typically be thrown away are saved and used as homes for baby oysters (spat). Check our Save Oyster Shells page for dropoff locations and participating restaurants.

Decades of Success: The 1970s

Even as a young organization, our work was effective and got noticed. Find out what we did.

Explore Our Timeline

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