Chesapeake Bay Oyster Planting Sets Record In 2023: Gov. Moore


Watermen dredge for oysters on the Chesapeake Bay on Nov. 19, 2019. More than 1.7 billion juvenile oysters have been planted on sanctuary and public oyster fishery sites in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay in 2023. (AP Photo/Brian Witte, File)

Patch Regional Manager Deb Belt wrote this story.

ANNAPOLIS, MD — More than 1.7 billion new juvenile oysters have been planted on sanctuary and public oyster fishery sites in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay this year, surpassing the 2023 planting goal and setting a new annual record, state leaders said Tuesday.

The milestone means the state has planted almost 7 billion oysters since launching its oyster restoration strategy in 2014.

“Planting 1.7 billion oysters this year shows the success of the broad partnership of watermen, scientists, academics, nonprofits, and state and federal government officials dedicated to this vital natural resource and economic driver for Maryland,” said Gov. Wes Moore in a statement. “I’d like to thank the partner organizations and our dedicated Department of Natural Resources staff who enabled the state to achieve this significant accomplishment.”

In 2014, Maryland committed to restoring oyster populations in five Bay tributaries, as part of the interstate Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The state focused on oyster plantings as a key component of its Chesapeake Bay restoration and replenishment strategy by deploying hundreds of millions of juvenile oysters on both sanctuary reefs and public oyster reefs annually.

Oysters are beneficial because they filter excess nutrient pollutants from the bay, provide valuable habitat for other marine species, and boost the state’s commercial seafood industry through annual harvests and oyster aquaculture.

“In recent years, we’ve seen several good natural spat sets for oysters, which have boosted the bivalves’ overall population as well as economic returns for harvesters and growers,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz. “Oyster planting efforts have enabled us to work toward a broader goal to increase the species’ population in Maryland for their ecological benefits.”

“It took three decades to plant 10 billion oysters in Maryland, and half of that was completed in the last decade,” said Oyster Recovery Partnership Executive Director Ward Slacum in a news release. “To achieve meaningful results for the Chesapeake Bay, we must be unyielding and this year’s planting rate is a positive sign that Maryland is committed to Bay restoration.”

Oysters for the five large-scale restoration tributaries are grown primarily at University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge.

Of the 1.7 billion oysters planted so far this year, 1.03 billion were planted in oyster sanctuaries targeted by the state for large-scale restoration; 112.61 million were planted in smaller sanctuaries in Anne Arundel and Queen Anne’s County; 212.4 million were planted in the Eastern Bay region sanctuaries for the Department of Natural Resource’s Eastern Bay Project; and 455.25 million have been planted on public oyster grounds throughout the state.

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