Monday, March 19, 2012

New Oyster Restoration for Eastern Shore

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources says state and federal officials are planning a major oyster restoration effort for Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore.

DNR officials, along with their counterparts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, plan to discuss the effort Wednesday from 1-7 p.m. at an open house that will be held at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum located at 213 North St. in St. Michaels.

Officials say the creek east of Tilghman Island near the Choptank River was chosen because of the high likelihood of success. The plan calls for expanding oyster bars and seeding the reefs with shells and oysters. Work is expected to begin this summer.

DNR says the work is part of the federal bay restoration strategy that calls for restoring self-sustaining oyster populations in 10 Maryland tributaries by 2025.

For information on the science behind oyster restoration, visit the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office's website at
The 2010 Executive order establishing the new Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bat Watershed gives the follow goal for oyster restoration:

Restore native oyster habitat and populations in 20 out of 35 to 40 candidate tributaries by 2025. (Current condition: 0 tributaries with fully restored oyster populations; several tributaries with successful living oyster reef habitat.)
If you follow the link you get to the actual criteria for determining whether the oysters (and other species) are restored.  Much remains to be determined later (not unrealistically) however for a tributary to be restored requires:
an operational goal of restoring 50 -100% of currently restorable oyster habitat represents a reasonable target for tributary-level restoration.
For an individual reef within a tributary to be considered restored requires:
shell planting and spat-on-shell should result in a minimum of 30% of coverage of the restoration reef.
That's a lot of area...
the workgroup recommends that a mean density of 50 oysters/m2 and 50 grams dry weight /m2 containing at least two year classes, and covering at least 30% of the reef area provides a reasonable target operational goal for reef-level restoration.
And that's a lot of oysters.   And this has to occur in 20 tributaries in 13 years, in today's budget climate?  Color me skeptical....

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