• Progress

    Six Chesapeake Bay tributaries have been selected for oyster restoration: Harris Creek and the Little Choptank and Tred Avon rivers in Maryland, and the Lafayette, Lynnhaven and Piankatank rivers in Virginia.

    Each tributary is at a different level of progress in a process that involves developing a tributary restoration plan, constructing and seeding reefs, and monitoring and evaluating restored reefs. The last phase of this process—reef monitoring and evaluation—will determine success in meeting this outcome. Monitoring and evaluation will not be complete until after 2025, as a tributary must be monitored at three- and six-year intervals after reef construction and seeding are complete before it can be deemed restored. Monitoring and evaluation began in Harris Creek, for instance, in 2015. More information about monitoring and evaluation protocols, frequency and success metrics can be found in a metrics report from the Oyster Metrics Workgroup.

    The table below depicts the following information about the tributaries that have been selected for oyster restoration in Maryland and Virginia: where the planning and restoration of each tributary stands; the acres of reefs that have been restored toward established targets; and whether the monitoring and evaluation of restored reefs is underway.

    Download the Oyster Reef Restoration Progress Dashboard (.xlsx / .jpg)

    In Maryland, 563.9 acres of oyster reefs are considered “complete.” While most of these reefs have undergone restoration as part of our progress toward this outcome, others are naturally occurring and already meet our criteria for a restored reef. According to an April 2017 restoration update, about 370 acres of oyster reefs remain to be restored, including 112 acres in the Tred Avon and 262 acres in the Little Choptank.

    • The Harris Creek restoration plan originally called for 377 acres of reefs to be restored. o This target was later revised to 350 acres. Between 2011 and 2015, 350.9 acres of reefs were built and seeded with 2.07 billion spat, marking the completion of the initial restoration phase for this tributary. In 2016, four reefs were seeded with 61.3 million spat to ensure each reef received its full complement of seed oysters. A 2017 analysis of the “second cohort” of Harris Creek reefs (seeded in 2013) showed that almost all reefs met the minimum criteria for success in oyster weight and density and 80 percent met even higher weight and density targets. In addition, several reefs showed a stable or increasing footprint and height and all reefs were home to oysters of different ages (which indicates a healthy oyster population). A 2016 analysis of the “first cohort” of Harris Creek reefs (seeded in 2012) showed similarly positive results.
    • The Tred Avon River draft restoration plan calls for 147 acres of reefs to be present in the sanctuary. In 2015, 18.6 acres of reefs were built, 2.6 of which were seeded. In 2016, 32.4 acres of reefs were seeded with more than 142 million spat. (No new reefs were built.) In 2017, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to construct eight acres of shell substrate reefs and partners plan to seed about 50 acres as hatchery production allows.
    • The Little Choptank River restoration plan calls for 440 acres of reefs to be restored. Of this total, 40 acres already meet our definition of a restored reef. Between 2014 and 2015, 148.4 acres of reefs were built, about one-third of which were seeded. In 2016, 132.2 acres of reefs were seeded. In 2017, partners plan to seed about 120 acres. An additional 118 acres still need to be built and are pending permit approval.

    In Virginia, 158 acres of oyster reefs are considered “complete.” Some of these reefs have undergone restoration as part of our progress toward this outcome, while others have undergone previous restoration work or, due to naturally occurring reefs and oysters, already meet our criteria for a restored reef. According to an April 2017 restoration update, nine and a half acres of oyster reefs remain to be restored in the Lafayette River. Restoration targets for the Piankatank and Lynnhaven rivers are being finalized.

    • In the Lafayette River, partners have set a restoration target of 80 acres of reefs. Of this total, 70.5 acres already meet our definition of a restored reef, due to past restoration work and a decades-long harvest closure that has allowed some reefs to self-restore. Partners have determined which areas of the river are best suited for the nine and a half acres of restoration work that remains and have worked with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to ensure past projects and self-restored reefs will remain protected from leasing. In 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Elizabeth River Project plan to build four acres of reefs with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but are still seeking funding to support the completion of the remaining five and a half acres.
    • In the Lynnhaven River, partners are working to develop a restoration target. Due to past restoration work, 63 acres of reefs already meet our definition of restored, and 2016 surveys indicate these reefs have been self-sustaining since 2008. In 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will conduct additional surveys in high-priority restoration areas.
    • In the Piankatank River, partners have set a target to restore between 500 and 1,000 acres of reefs. Between 2014 and 2015, 25 acres of reefs were built; an additional 25 acres will be built in 2017. The Piankatank is also home to 55 acres of sanctuary reefs and 118 acres of harvest reefs. An oyster population survey—expected to take place in 2017—will help determine whether existing reefs meet our restoration criteria and can be included in this tributary’s completed acreage total.

    While over-harvesting, disease and habitat loss have led to a severe drop in oyster populations over the last century, the filter-feeder continues to clean our waters and offer food and habitat to other animals. Oyster restoration at the tributary level aims to increase oyster populations to provide the ecosystem services that oyster reefs perform, including water quality improvements and habitat for aquatic critters.

  • Funding

    According to the Maryland Oyster Restoration Interagency Workgroup, partners invested $47.61 million in oyster restoration in Harris Creek and the Little Choptank and Tred Avon rivers over the past six years.

    In Harris Creek, partners spent $27.5 million between 2012 and 2016. In the Little Choptank River, partners spent $17.8 million between 2014 and 2016. In the Tred Avon River, partners spent $2.1 million between 2015 and 2016. It is important to note that these costs represent only those funds spent on reef construction, material transport and seeding. Costs associated with directing existing resources into the Choptank Complex (e.g., water quality monitoring, benthic surveys, or oyster population and disease surveys) are not reflected, nor are staff salaries.

    Partners estimate the nine and a half acres of restoration work that remains for the Lafayette River will cost $1.35 million.

  • Management Strategy

    To achieve the oyster outcome, participating partners have committed to:

    • Selecting tributaries for restoration;
    • Collecting appropriate data;
    • Setting restoration targets;
    • Developing and implementing restoration plans;
    • Tracking restoration progress;
    • Managing restoration efforts adaptively;
    • Working collaboratively to secure spat, substrate, financial and human resources; and
    • Considering the future protection of restored reefs.

    These partners will also collaborate with the work being done to achieve the climate adaptation, climate monitoring and assessment, citizen stewardship, and water quality standards attainment and monitoring outcomes.

    Monitoring and assessing progress toward the outcome will occur at the reef, tributary and Chesapeake Bay-wide levels. Reef- and tributary-level monitoring will take place at three and six years after restoration is complete to determine if a tributary has been successfully restored according to agreed-upon metrics.

    As part of the Chesapeake Bay Program’s partnership-wide implementation of adaptive management, progress toward this outcome was reviewed and discussed by the Management Board in August of 2017. This outcome will be reviewed again in 2019.

  • Work Plan
    Chesapeake Bay Program partners have committed to taking specific actions over the course of 2016 and 2017 to achieve the high-level approaches identified in the management strategy above.
  • Participating Partners

    The Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team leads the effort to achieve this outcome. It works in partnership with the Vital Habitats, Water Quality and Healthy Watersheds goal implementation teams.

    Participating partners include:

    • Maryland Department of Natural Resources (State of Maryland)
    • City of Norfolk (Commonwealth of Virginia)
    • City of Virginia Beach (Commonwealth of Virginia)
    • Christopher Newport University (Commonwealth of Virginia)
    • Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Commonwealth of Virginia)
    • Virginia Marine Resources Commission (Commonwealth of Virginia)
    • Potomac River Fisheries Commission
    • Chesapeake Bay Commission
    • National Marine Fisheries Service (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
    • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
    • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
    • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
    • Elizabeth River Project
    • Lynnhaven River NOW
    • Nature Conservancy
    • Oyster Recovery Partnership
    • Oyster Reefkeepers