The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) didn’t let the pandemic stop them from their efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay’s native oyster population, a critical initiative in restoring the Bay.
The Little Choptank oyster restoration project, completed last summer but spanning about 5 years, is one of the largest in the world. The 358-acres of oyster sanctuary (that’s larger than the National Mall in Washington, DC) are home to 2 billion baby oysters.
“Completing restoration construction in the Little Choptank River is another huge step toward completing Maryland’s 2014 Bay Agreement goal of restoring 5 tributaries [10 across the Bay region all together] by 2025,” says CBF’s Maryland Fisheries Scientist Allison Colden. “These restored reefs will contribute to increased water filtration, habitat, and nutrient removal, helping improve the Bay’s water quality and productivity.”
While also providing critical habitat for Chesapeake icons like the rockfish and blue crabs, oyster reefs are vital for water quality. One adult oyster is able to filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water each day. The Bay’s oyster population is only a fraction of what it once was due to overharvesting and pollution, so the work of restoring the oyster population was necessary to continue, even during a pandemic:
“As soon as we became aware of the pandemic in early March of last year, we took immediate action to change our oyster restoration operations to ensure the safety of staff and volunteers,” said Doug Myers, CBF’s Senior Maryland Scientist. “What we didn’t do is halt the program. Instead, we worked within safety guidelines and continued planting millions of water-filtering oysters in the Bay. We’re so thankful to our dozens of volunteers who were able to assist our efforts during these trying times by helping to pick up and clean recycled shells.”