Realizing that restoring Chesapeake Bay oysters requires dedicated efforts, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) commissioned the restoration vessel, Patricia Campbell, in August 2002. From its homeport at CBF's Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Md., the 60-foot boat transports and places hatchery-produced seed oysters onto sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland waters. It also carries oyster shell and other materials for reef construction. 2022 marked its 20th year of service.
CBF Trustee and oyster advocate Keith Campbell funded construction of Patricia Campbell and named it for his wife, Patricia. The vessel's design combines features from Virginia oyster farmers' boats with state-of-the-art technology to create the most advanced oyster restoration vessel on the Bay. The boat performs multiple functions essential to oyster restoration to help jumpstart the Bay's decimated oyster population.
Historically, Chesapeake oysters were the Bay's most valuable fishery. Ecologically, native oysters are equally important: they filter large amounts of algae, sediment, and other pollutants. Native oyster reefs also provide habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay organisms. Currently, native oysters are estimated at less than two percent of historic levels, making restoration critical to help improve the Bay's water quality and increase its economic viability.
Patricia Campbell: Making Reef Building More Efficient
CBF often works with partner organizations to design, build, and stock sanctuary oyster reefs. Patricia Campbell brings to collaborative projects the capability to deposit as much as 40 tons of oyster shell or spread up to several million seed oysters per load. Its most valuable features are the built-in conveyor and spreader that allow the crew to evenly spread seed oysters from the bow with pinpoint accuracy. The on-deck crane also gives her the capability to place alternative reef materials, such as concrete reef balls, on the bottom.
At our Oyster Restoration Center, CBF has installed three 3,000-gallon setting tanks for producing seed oysters. Using larvae produced at the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory, CBF has the capability to produce more than twenty million oysters per year. The larvae attach to oyster shells in one-ton stainless steel containers, which are later hoisted by crane onto Patricia Campbell for transport to reef sites. Patricia Campbell's draft enables it to work in shallow water. The specially designed spuds, a type of anchor, allow the boat to hold its position exactly or spin on a dime, making placement of valuable young oysters onto reefs much more precise. Patricia Campbell brings valuable innovation to oyster restoration to improve the Bay's water quality, help restore fisheries, and save the Bay.