New Report: Man-Made Oyster Reefs in Choptank Creek Meeting Benchmarks

A new report, released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, concludes that all the reefs in the Choptank River tributary were found to be harboring at least the minimally acceptable densities of 15 oysters per square meter, while half had 50 or more bivalves per square meter – the restoration effort goal. The report comes as a state panel prepares to determine whether to continue similar work in the Tred Avon River.

From the Capital Gazette,

It is the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office’s first review of $44 million in investments in oyster reefs that began with the Harris Creek and have continued in two other Choptank tributaries, the Little Choptank and Tred Avon rivers.

The information comes as the state’s Oyster Advisory Commission considers whether to continue work in the Tred Avon. State officials asked the Army Corps of Engineers late last year to pause work building reefs there until more could be learned about how effective oyster restoration efforts in Harris Creek have been, a request that diverted $1 million in federal money from Maryland to Virginia.

A separate report is meanwhile expected this week from the state Department of Natural Resources looking more broadly at how oysters are faring in 51 sanctuaries across the Chesapeake Bay.

The NOAA report found that the Harris Creek reefs are faring better than control reefs on which no construction was done or oyster spat deposited. Of those four control reefs, two met the minimum oyster density standard, but none met the higher goal.

The Harris Creek reefs also contained multiple generations of oysters, a possible sign that the oysters are successfully reproducing naturally. Some of the older oysters could also have been present before restoration efforts began, the report said.

Scientists have a plan to survey oyster densities in all three of the Choptank tributaries three years after new reefs are established, and again after six years. The Harris Creek reefs are the first to hit the three-year mark, so more data on other reefs is expected in the coming years.

The oyster commission must inform the Army Corps by early August whether it should resume work in the Tred Avon this winter, state officials have said. The group plans to meet Aug. 1 to decide.

Read the full article for more information.

Click here to read the full NOAA report.