CBF's oyster restoration programs offer citizens the tools and information needed to help restore native oysters, Crassostrea virginica, to the Chesapeake. Until the 1980s, oysters supported the most valuable fishery in the Bay. Today, as a result of decades of pollution, overharvesting, and disease, the Bay's native oyster population has been estimated at as low as one percent of historic levels.
Yet oysters remain a keystone species in the Bay's ecology. They filter algae, sediment, and other pollutants and in the process improve water quality and clarity. Their large reefs provide habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay organisms. Restoration is critical to help improve the Bay's water quality and increase its economic viability.
See program information below or program links to the left.
Maryland Oyster Gardening Program
CBF's Oyster Gardening Program gives people the opportunity to help bring back this vital species by growing oysters alongside their docks. Once grown, the adult oysters are returned to CBF for planting on sanctuary reefs. READ MORE
Oyster Gardening in the Inner Harbor
In September 2014, CBF and the Waterfront Partnership expanded their oyster restoration program, formally kicking off The Greater Baltimore Oyster Partnership. Plans for 2014 are to grow 165,00 baby oysters in Baltimore's Inner Harbor with the help of local residents. READ MORE
Save Oyster Shells
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) needs your help—and your oyster shells—to restore native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Donate your empty shells to CBF so we can recycle them into more oyster reefs and repopulate the Bay with more oysters. Oyster shells are literally the foundation of our reef restoration efforts!
Oyster shells are becoming increasingly scarce. Through CBF's Save Oyster Shells program, shells that would typically be thrown away are saved and used in a variety of oyster restoration projects. READ MORE
Shady Side Oyster Restoration Center
In support of re-establishing this keystone species, CBF has established the Maryland Oyster Restoration Center (ORC) in Shady Side. The ORC houses several large tanks used in growing juvenile oysters. It is also home to CBF's restoration vessel Patricia Campbell. This 60-foot boat transports and places hatchery-produced seed oysters onto sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland waters.
Volunteer activities at the ORC include shell shaking and reef ball building.
"Shell shaking" involves cleaning oyster shells by shaking off the dirt and debris so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This is critical in our oyster restoration efforts, as without cleaning the oyster shells, we could potentially lose millions of healthy larvae as they attach to debris, rather than the shell, and are later washed out into the silt. More on shell shaking and volunteer opportunities
Reef balls are manmade structures that provide critical oyster habitat. Larval oysters, called spat, are introduced onto these artificial reef structures, which are then placed in key oyster restoration locations throughout the Bay. Reef ball construction typically takes three days (though volunteers do not need to sign up for all three) during which we construct molds, pour concrete, and "hatch" the newly cast structures. More on reef balls and volunteer opportunities
We rely very heavily on volunteer help to make our oyster restoration program work and we are always looking for volunteers. READ MORE