Chesapeake Oyster Alliance Marks 100 Partner Milestone

Black in Marine Science Is Coalition’s 100th Member

The Chesapeake Oyster Alliance (COA) welcomed its 100th partner this month, marking an important milestone for the coalition. COA consists of non-profits, academic institutions, businesses, and aquaculture operations working together to restore the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster population. The efforts by these partners and others are helping achieve COA’s goal of adding 10 billion new oysters to the Bay by 2025.

The 100th partner is Black in Marine Science, a network focused on increasing diversity in marine science while highlighting the many Black scientists already in the field. The connection to COA creates new opportunities for collaboration around oyster restoration, research, and aquaculture. 

“We are thrilled to join this partnership and excited to collaborate with other like-minded organizations. I truly believe in the mission of the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance and the impact it has on restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay,” said Black in Marine Science Community Director Leslie Townsell. “As a member of COA, we have access to valuable resources and support that help us achieve our mission of improving the lives of those we serve through environmental stewardship. I am excited to work alongside other members and see the positive changes we can make together.”

Oysters filter water, form reefs that create habitat for crabs, shrimp, and game fish, and contribute to local economies and the seafood industry. But oyster numbers in the Chesapeake Bay have declined to just a small fraction of historic population levels. 

With a goal of sparking momentum and innovation to bring back the Chesapeake oyster around a collective goal, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation founded COA in 2018. 

COA’s diverse coalition of partners today range from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, to Solar Oysters, to the Nansemond Indian Nation. A full list and map of COA’s partner organizations can be found at this link.

“We cannot truly restore the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay unless we work together. That’s why reaching 100 partners is such an important milestone for the Chesapeake Oyster Alliance,” said COA Manager Tanner Council. “We never set a numeric goal for a certain number of partners–we have always just sought out the best from around the Bay’s oyster world to join us. Our door remains open to anyone working for the Bay oyster.”  

COA has tackled the challenges facing increasing oyster populations in many ways. That includes distributing more than $280,000 in grants in the last three years to promote innovation in oyster aquaculture, restoration, and public education. COA partners are presently applying for the next $150,000 pool of grants to be awarded in December.  

COA has also hosted two Chesapeake Oyster Science Symposiums in the last two years, totaling over 500 attendees in person and online, to foster collaboration and research in oyster restoration and aquaculture. The next symposium will take place on Oct. 26 in Cambridge, MD, and online.

“Being a COA Partner and an Oyster Innovation Grant awardee has made our business more marketable,” said Claire Neubert, co-owner of the Hampton-based ecotourism business Shored Up. “When people hear that we are COA Partners and grant awardees, they have a better understanding of our business, our goals, and what we do for Bay oysters.”

Research, innovation, and the dedication of academic institutions is also key to increasing oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay. 

“COA has been a principal group in bringing scientists, commercial growers, resource managers, and oyster gardeners together to share their ideas and passion for restoring our resource. We are very proud to be part of it,” said University of Maryland Extension Principal Agent Don Webster.

Promoting growing oysters for food is an important part of increasing the number of oysters filtering water in the Bay. Oyster aquaculture has tremendous potential for achieving ecological benefits while providing economic opportunities. Companies contributing to this burgeoning industry include Rogue Oysters, a COA partner based on the Rappahannock River in Virginia. 

“Oysters are literally a foundation species that supports a healthy Chesapeake Bay by creating clean habitat for the Bay’s marine life to thrive. Great partners like COA are critical to bringing everyone together to see a thriving oyster population that fuels a thriving Chesapeake Bay and helps restore it to its former glory,” said Rogue Oysters Co-Founder Taryn Brice Rowland. 

In Maryland, the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association has engaged students in new oyster-related projects as a COA Partner and an Oyster Innovation Grant awardee. 

“Through COA meetings and conferences, we are able to learn more about oysters, their needs, and decisions being made throughout the community that impact oyster restoration,” said St. Mary's River Watershed Association General Manager Emma Green. “It’s important to bridge communities across the watershed beyond eating oysters. COA connects people across the Bay region and beyond to form diverse partnerships that allow people to combine efforts and resources to support a common goal of restoring oyster populations.”

Council notes that there are many ways to support COA. 

“We also welcome and promote businesses, civic groups and schools through our Reef Builder Tier, and accept individuals into our Supporter Level, which keeps members informed on COA highlights and opportunities. There’s room for everyone who loves the oyster,” said Council.

To find out more about COA, visit


Kenny Fletcher 90x110

Kenny Fletcher

Director of Communications and Media Relations, CBF

[email protected]

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