Protest Planned on Eastern Shore
Historic Shift in Wind Patterns Over Bay Blows Away Water Quality

Oyster Revival Is a Focus of New Federal Bay Plan

Oyster The Chesapeake’s battered oysters will get a boost from the new federal Bay restoration plan.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson held a press conference on the Anacostia River in Washington DC to release the Obama Administration’s new strategy for restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

The strategy included goals such as establishing “rigorous new regulation and enforcement to implement all pollution controls for clean water.” To read the whole plan, click here.

Many of parts of the strategy are identical to promises that EPA made on May 10 when federal officials signed a binding agreement to end a lawsuit by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and our allies. Among other things, this landmark agreement requires EPA to finalize new regulations to reduce stormwater runoff pollution by November 2012, and it requires the agency to propose new regulations to control agricultural runoff from large livestock facilities by June 2014.

Another important element in the new federal strategy concerns oysters.

The Obama Administration plans to restore native oyster populations to 20 Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025.  This is a timely and important goal, because oysters are filter feeders that clean the Bay. Their populations have plummeted to a tiny fraction of historic levels because of overfishing, pollution and disease. Harvests of oysters today are at less than one percent of what they were in the 1880s.
Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration on May 21 unveiled regulations for an expansion of oyster sanctuaries in Bay tributaries. The federal strategy calls for NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work with Maryland and Virginia on a Bay-wide oyster restoration campaign.

“Oysters are a keystone species in Chesapeake Bay,” the federal strategy states. “They grow naturally in reefs that create and provide habitat not just for themselves and additional generations of oysters, but for many species of commercially and recreationally important finfish and shellfish.”

In 2011, the federal and state governments will devise a plan to identify the best areas for restoration, which will begin in 2012, according to the new federal strategy.

The partners will work to rebuild oyster populations at the rate of roughly two tributaries per year -- one river a year in Maryland, and one a year in Virginia. 

The government agencies will add old oyster shells and alternative hard substances to river bottoms so that oysters can grow on them.  Oysters cannot survive on soft bottom. Then the partners will plant hatchery-reared baby oysters (called spat) on top of this hard material.  Maryland plans to create sanctuaries to protect the growing oysters.  And, to discourage poaching that is a problem in some areas,  government agencies will work to enforce no-harvesting zones, according to the new federal plan.

To help watermen transition to new jobs in oyster farming, a new loan program is being initiated in Maryland this year with plans to begin providing loans next year to help fishermen and others learn aquaculture skills, according to the federal strategy released today.  This training will "enable watermen and others... to learn through hands on classroom and field settings about profitable shellfish farming," the strategy says.

This is great news for the Chesapeake’s native oysters.  Restoring this critical species will take longer than the recent rebound of blue crabs.

But oysters are equally – if not more – important than crabs, because of their role in filtering the Bay and providing shelter for fish, crabs and other animals.  And the success of Maryland and Virginia in helping the blue crabs to recover, through regulations that restricted the catching of females, shows that the Bay’s signature species can be rescued through smart and decisive government action.

Blue crabs are now multiplying.  Now it is the oysters’ turn.


By Tom Pelton, Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

(Photo from


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It's oysters and menhaden. Both are filter feeders and both are necessadry to restore the Bay. Publish the names, addresses, and pictures of all poachers in their local papers. Let the communities know who the poachers are. Who is stealing our resources. Don't hide them from public view by just saying "a poacher from Rock Hall" ect. Put their names and pictures in the paper.

You know, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources told me this winter they planned to do exactly that to help deter poaching. They said they were going to start publishing the names (although not photos) of everyone charged with violations on a regular basis in local papers.

Does anyone out there know if they've put that into action?

All I have ever seen is "a poacher from Rock Hall" never a poachers
name, and town. A photo in the local paper would be good. Community
shame may be a way to go. Also take away their crabber or oyster
permits for good! Some of these folks have been poaching for

Hey Tom,

Not all poachers are from Rock Hall though they have their share.

The Kent County News has always published names of those arrested in the police blotter and those convicted/fined in our court calendar.

A poacher could care about a permit, any more than a drunk driver cares about a revocation. It's going to take education, and as far as I'm concerned a big change in ... the DNR.

I suggest arrest notices on a special web page, and with conviction, photos of the "perps" and info on the same web page. If they want to buy ads publicising the offenders, it might be a good use of state money.

The most unfortunate aspect of all this is the fact that the single largest source of pollution in the Upper Bay comes from sewage treatment plant overflow/failure, and the "usual suspects" and developers are being rounded up, not the municipalities!


The larger issues in Maryland that is often over looked is trying to recover anadromous fish species to Maryland's inland river systems. Our riverine landscapes have seen the almost complete extirpation of American shad, Brook trout and others. We need to restore hydrological connectivity by removing dams and evaluating land use over larger spatial scales.

You're right, Jason. But the case of American shad is especially puzzling. The numbers of American shad were recovering on the Susquehanna River during the 1990s, after a lift was built and later improved over the Conowingo Dam. Things were looking up for a while -- then about a decade ago, the American shad numbers crashed again.

Anyone out there have a clue as to why American shad populations started to improve and then suddenly headed back down again?

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