The Chesapeake Bay Foundation recognizes that saving the Bay is uniquely tied to restoring the native oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Historically, Chesapeake oysters were the Bay's most valuable fishery. Ecologically, native oysters are equally important: they filter algae, sediment, and other pollutants. Oyster reefs also provide habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay organisms. 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 has established three facilities devoted to restoration of Crassostrea virginica.
Help rebuild the Chesapeake Bay's oyster population by becoming an oyster gardener. Hundreds of community members in Maryland and Virginia grow oysters alongside their docks and then help CBF plant them on sanctuary reefs. Find out more about oyster gardening and how you can become a gardener in Maryland, Baltimore, and Virginia.
Oyster Shell Recycling
Oyster shells are literally the foundation of our reef restoration efforts, but they are becoming increasingly scarce. Through CBF's Save Oyster Shell recycling program, individuals and restaurants donate empty shells to be used in a variety of oyster restoration projects.
We turn 2,000 bushels of recycled oyster shells each year into habitat for millions of oysters planted in the Bay and its rivers. Once the recycled shells are cleaned and cured, CBF places them in huge water tanks containing millions of microscopic oyster larvae, which then attach to the shells. On average, each recycled shell can become home to dozens of those baby oysters, called spat. CBF provides the spat-on-shell to its oyster gardeners and plants them in rivers and the Bay to grow and expand oyster reefs.
For information on local shell recycling locations and participating restaurants, please visit our Save Oyster Shells web page.