Hogan Administration Calls to Suspend Oyster Restoration

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A healthy oyster reef. Photo by Dave Harp.

Just as oysters are staging a comeback, Governor Hogan's Administration has moved to suspend oyster restoration.

As reported after Christmas by the Star Democrat, the Hogan Administration asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to cease its already agreed to oyster restoration efforts on the Tred Avon River. Reportedly, at the request of certain watermen, the Hogan Administration no longer wants the Army Corps to follow through with restoration work underway, but instead wants to cease all work and wait for the results of a pending study before deciding if it will move forward with the restoration.

Deferring to the Hogan Administration request, the Army Corps agreed to the delay, the Star Democrat reported Jan. 7. The action will stall one of the biggest restoration projects in the state likely for more than a year.

We know the Hogan Administration wants to help commercial oyster harvesters. So do we. Based on available science, we firmly believe that restoration efforts are improving wild oyster production and harvest.

The restoration planned for Tred Avon will benefit everyone, boosting oyster reproduction, attracting fish, and cleaning currently heavily polluted water. Oysters are a common resource to be protected for all—not just for one group's economic gain.  

We understand the watermen's concerns. Generally, they oppose the creation of sanctuary areas like the Tred Avon where they can't harvest. It is worth noting that a University of Maryland study a few years ago called for a complete closure of the fishery as a conservation measure. In deference to watermen, Maryland maintains 76 percent of all oyster bars open to harvest, and we support that.

And even with the sanctuaries in place, harvest increased five-fold over the last five years. The 24 percent of bars that are closed as sanctuaries should stay that way to provide important ecological benefits, to help build the population, and to stabilize the fishery.

As reported by the Star Democrat, a handful of watermen leaders convinced the governor to delay the Tred Avon project with "new data" on the effectiveness of restoration efforts. 

 The first problem with this delay request is no "new data" exist. The state's fall oyster survey is still being analyzed, and no data are yet available even to state managers. According to the Corps of Engineers, what information is available indicates restoration has, "resulted in healthy oyster populations and reef habitat." 

The delay of the Tred Avon work also violates consensus. In designing the project, the Army Corps was sensitive to local concerns. The Corps even modified the plans last year to satisfy local watermen. The watermen and the Hogan Administration were part of the consensus and agreed to this modification. Asking now to stop the project entirely, goes against the consensus decision and disregards an open public process.

The biggest concern we have with this delay request is that it reveals a bias by the Hogan Administration against restoring oysters on sanctuary bars. If the administration believes work related to oysters should wait until the five-year review of Maryland's oyster plan is finished in July, why wouldn't the administration call for a delay in ALL parts of Maryland's oyster plan, including oyster harvesting? 

Oysters are making such an encouraging comeback now, leading to cleaner, healthier waters. But these water-filtering, reef-building bivalves still face considerable challenges. Political moves designed to appease a small minority opposed to oyster sanctuaries shouldn’t be another hurdle oysters need to overcome.  

To delay oyster restoration based on unsubstantiated data is not in Maryland's best interest. The majority of Marylanders want oyster restoration work to continue.

—Bill Goldsborough 
CBF's Director of Fisheries

Stand up for our oysters! Click here to send a message to the Hogan Administration.


This Week in the Watershed

We love oysters. These water-filtering, reef-building bivalves can filter as much as 50 gallons of water a day as an adult (check out the video above!).

Despite at one point falling to one percent of historical levels, oysters are making a comeback. This comeback however, is not without obstacles. Recently, Governor Hogan's administration asked the Army Corps of Engineers to delay its oyster restoration project on the Tred Avon River.

Reportedly, at the request of certain watermen, the Hogan Administration wants to wait for the results of a pending study before deciding if oyster restoration will moved forward. This action could delay one of the biggest restoration projects in the state for more than a year. We know the Hogan Administration wants to help commercial oyster harvesters. So do we. But based on available science, we firmly believe that restoration efforts are improving wild oyster production and harvest, and these efforts should not stop.

Let Governor Hogan know that halting oyster restoration is not in the best interest of Marylanders. 

 This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Delay, Clean Water Funding, and Sick Fish

  • Kudos to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe for proposing major investments in clean water measures, such as fencing livestock out of streams, upgrading water treatment plants, and boosting the state's commercial oyster harvest. (Daily Press—VA)
  • Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection has received a funding increase for the first time in seven years. The increase is not as much as Governor Wolf was hoping for, however. (Central Pennsylvania Business Journal—PA)
  • Representatives from all nine Maryland Eastern Shore counties have developed an action plan to restore their local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay. (Kent County News—MD)
  • CBF's Director of Fisheries Bill Goldsborough, weighs in on the importance of menhaden in this article. (Bay Journal)
  • Smallmouth bass in the Susquehanna River are suffering from poor water quality, primarily from hormone-altering compounds and herbicides. (Bay Journal)
  • On December 24, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, under direction from the Hogan Administration, asked the Army Corps of Engineers to delay their oyster restoration project on Tred Avon River. (Baltimore Sun—MD) Bonus: CBF Statement.
  • Virginia's Legislative Session starts next week! There are several programs we're asking legislators to support in the the 2016 Virginia General Assembly to clean Virginia's rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay.

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

January 14-16

  • College Park, MD: Join Future Harvest CASA for their 17th annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed conference. One of the region's largest farm and food gatherings, you'll be able to experience seven different conference tracks, interact with other farmers and food lovers, and enjoy local fare. Click here to register!

January 16-February 6

  • Across Virginia: Help restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers by participating in CBF's Grasses for the Masses program. Participants grow wild celery, a type of underwater grass, in their homes for 10-12 weeks. After 10-12 weeks of growing, participants will gather to plant their grasses in select local rivers to bolster grass populations and help restore the Bay. Workshops are being held throughout Virginia. Click here to find one near you!

Stay Tuned!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Why I Give

Today, in honor of Giving Tuesday—a global movement dedicated to giving back–we spoke with Perk Perkins, CEO of The Orvis Company, about why he and his company give back to help Save the Bay and the rivers and streams that feed it. Here's what he had to say: 


PerksBioAs an individual concerned with the welfare of our environment, part of what I find so impressive about CBF is their accountability. Their annual State of the Bay report spells out their progress and pitfalls with a scorecard model that serves as an example for other non-profits.

As a corporation helping to fund CBF's restoration efforts, we find them to be extraordinarily engaged and responsive. They work closely with the Orvis team to amplify their message, and leverage our funding in innovative and substantial ways. 

Orvis takes great pride partnering with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in their outstanding efforts to improve the tenuous health of the Bay. 

Saving the Bay is a tall order, but with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we feel confident we can make a difference.

—Perk Perkins
CEO, The Orvis Company, Inc.

Show your love of the Bay and its rivers and streams just like Orvis by giving back on this Giving Tuesday.


New Home on the Shore!

12241779_10153626730260943_4095302690820372387_nMore than 200 people came out to the new Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton last Wednesday evening for our oyster expo!

The dust is still settling, but the Maryland Eastern Shore Office team is officially moved in to our new home at the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton, Maryland!

EasternShore-1The 23,0000-square-foot building complex is a LEED certified retrofit of an abandoned industrial facility built in the 1920s. Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC) bought and renovated the place with a vision to co-locate non-profit conservation and community groups in a downtown transitional neighborhood. It's smart growth and community development on steroids. Tenants currently include ESLC, CBF, The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, Town Creek Foundation, and The Oaks of Mamre Interfaith Library and Graduate Center. 

The move came just in time, too! Last week, we kicked off our opening through an oyster expo celebrating all the amazing oyster restoration work happening on the Shore and around the Bay. More than 200 people came out to feast on fantastic food and drink, sample oysters provided by Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company, and learn about these incredible creatures of the Chesapeake.  

Next time you're in Easton, come out and see us!

—Alan Girard, CBF's Eastern Shore MD Director

Read more about the center on page three of our newsletter here

Our new address is:
114 S. Washington St., Suite 103, Easton, MD  21601


Tommy Leggett Retires After 17 Years

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Tommy sharing his deep knowledge and love of oysters. Photos by CBF Staff.

After more than 17 years with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Virginia Oyster Restoration and Fisheries Scientist Tommy Leggett retired this month to focus on his aquaculture business, Chessie Seafood and Aquafarms. During his tenure at CBF, Tommy was instrumental in both establishing native oyster aquaculture in Virginia as well as implementing restoration programs that have planted tens of millions of oysters into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

"Tommy is one of the first champions of oyster aquaculture, and much of his life's work has been dedicated to ensuring the success of the oyster industry. He has helped to revive a resource that collapsed during his lifetime," says CBF Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager Jackie Shannon. "It has given me a great sense of pride to work side by side with him. Tommy truly embodies the American spirit. He is a pioneer and entrepreneur. He is a dedicated spouse, father, and grandfather. He lives by the tides, gets his hands dirty, and takes immense pride in his work."

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Tommy sizing up an oyster.

At CBF, Tommy built and ran the Virginia Oyster Restoration Center, which conducted restoration projects throughout Virginia in collaboration with numerous partners and stakeholders. In addition to working on efforts to rebuild the native oyster population, Tommy and his colleagues have helped watermen start their own aquaculture operations, led impactful decision-maker trips on water quality issues, played a key role in defeating a Virginia Senate resolution to support the introduction of the non-native oyster, informed smart and balanced oyster fisheries management and restoration policy, and worked with nearly 400 volunteers on oyster restoration projects.

When Tommy joined CBF in 1998, he already had nearly two decades' experience as a self-employed commercial waterman. He also had the credentials to back-up his on-the-water experience, having earned a master's degree from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine Science of the College of William and Mary, as well as a bachelor's degree in biology from Old Dominion University. "Tommy has always understood the pressures on the industry and used this knowledge to help formulate informed, empathetic, and well-rounded decisions on oyster restoration," says CBF Virginia Acting Director Christy Everett.

Over the years, Tommy has served on numerous shellfish-related boards, committees, and sub-committees. Those include the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, the Potomac Fisheries Commission, and the Virginia Marine Products Board. He has also been President and Vice President of the Working Watermen's Association, Vice President of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, and held memberships at the Virginia Seafood Council, the Virginia Shellfish Growers Association, and the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association.

Tommy never shied away from sharing his knowledge with others, and has been a mentor, colleague, and friend to so many across the Chesapeake watershed. We wish him the best as he continues his day-to-day oyster farming work.

—Kenny Fletcher, CBF's Virginia Communications Coordinator

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Tommy checking out a reef ball in the Lafayette River in Norfolk.

Building the World's Largest Man-Made Oyster Reef

PC in Harris Creek"The world's tallest building stands in Dubai. The largest city is in Japan. Brazil's Amazon is the largest rain forest. And the largest airport sits in the middle of a Saudi Arabian desert. But Maryland can lay claim to the world's largest man-made oyster reef." That's how the Washington Post referred to a vast, multi-partner effort, of which we were a part, to restore the oysters in Maryland's Harris Creek.

Over the last four years, a partnership of agencies and groups led by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration planted an estimated two billion oysters on 350 acres of river bottom on Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore. 

The ultimate goal is a thriving network of reefs in Harris Creek where oysters have achieved a critical mass and reproduce without the help from man. After six years, if the oysters survive well and mature, the partners hope to declare Harris Creek as the first tributary of the Chesapeake Bay restored to self-sufficiency. 

The work started in Harris Creek in 2011. At the time, there was perhaps only one to three acres of healthy oyster reef remaining in the creek that once boasted 1,500 acres. The bottom had too much mud to support historic quantities of oysters. 

When oysters reproduce, the larvae need a hard substrate upon which to attach. Normally, they attach to existing oysters and shells. So, the first step in restoring the creek was to put down man-made beds of oyster shells and stone. Then, the partners started "planting" hundreds of millions of "spat" (or baby oysters) the size of a dime attached to old oyster shells. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and DNR conducted most of this work. 

Then, other partners, led by the University of Maryland's Horn Point Laboratory and Oyster Recovery Partnership, planted hundreds of millions of "spat" (or baby oysters) attached to old oyster shells on the prepared beds. 

With the restoration effort, oysters in Harris Creek are now at densities they were 50 to 100 years ago. If you could snorkel over the reef, you'd see knots of growing oysters clustered together over hundreds of yards—a sort of massive, jagged, shag carpet.  

Achieving the impressive planting numbers and acres is a milestone for which we all should be proud. But it's just the beginning. Ultimately, the plan is to restore large oyster reefs in 10 tributaries of the Chesapeake over the next 10 years. Two other projects in Maryland and three in Virginia. And that's great news for the health of the Chesapeake as each adult oyster can filter and clean up to 50 gallons of water per day—gobbling up algae, and removing dirt and nitrogen pollution.

By 2025, the 10 super reefs should serve as oyster spawning dynamos that create rich habitat for fish, and filter billions of gallons of water in each tributary. To function properly, the reefs will need to grow vertically. Historic reefs in the Bay were more like jagged skyscrapers, but harvesting knocked them down. Right now, the Harris Creek reef is starting out relatively flat but will grow over time. While the reefs will be off-limits to harvesting, scientists believe they likely will help boost the population of oysters in general, including those in nearby harvesting areas. 

As CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard told the Post: "The Harris Creek sanctuary will serve as a reproductive engine, with the potential to repopulate wide areas outside the creek . . . [it is] a significant step in Maryland's plan to restore what was once a vast underwater food factory and water filtering system. Everyone will benefit from that restoration."

Learn more about our oyster restoration efforts.

 


This Week in the Watershed

PC in Harris Creek
CBF oyster restoration staff in Harris Creek.

Walking across a stage to receive a diploma at any level of education is a milestone achievement. While the accomplishment should be celebrated, in reality, graduation is announcing an individual's ambition and preparedness to make a difference in his or her field of interest. In much the same way, there are points in time when we celebrate success of Bay restoration efforts while looking toward what the future holds.

Recently, the oyster restoration project in Harris Creek, a tributary of Maryland's Choptank River, reached a milestone by completing the construction phase. While it's inaccurate to say the creek is "restored," the oyster restoration project has made significant progress, and the creek's oysters are now prepared to make a difference both in the water quality and the oyster levels in surrounding waterways.

CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) also celebrated a major milestone, marking its 25th anniversary. With Pennsylvania second only to Alaska in the number of miles of waterways flowing through the state, it is critical that future leaders are motivated to improve their local water quality. The work to improve environmental literacy and cultivate a reverence for clean water throughout the watershed is ongoing. But with accomplishments such as the Harris Creek milestone and the SWEP anniversary, there are times to celebrate our success.

This Week in the Watershed: Oyster Milestones, Education Anniversaries, and Tiny Trash

  • The endeavor to restore the oyster population in Harris Creek, a tributary of Maryland's Choptank River, is celebrating a major milestone. (CBF Statement—MD)
  • It's the 25th year of the CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program, where students get in touch with their local waterways. (Public News Service—VA)
  • The results are crystal clear—getting students outside improves learning and strengthens interest and respect for the environment. (Star Democrat—MD)
  • Finding bags, bottles, cans, and other visible signs of trash in our waterways is disturbing. But to grasp the bigger picture, you need to look closer. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Oyster restoration is tough work, but ultimately very fulfilling. CBF's Jackie Shannon can certainly testify to that. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)
  • Two Hampton Roads area principals are bringing their experience with CBF this summer on Tangier Island back to the classroom. (Virginian-Pilot—VA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

September 19

  • Gambrills, MD: Help CBF and partner organizations plant shrubs and wetland grasses at the former Naval Academy dairy farm. This 800-acre farm is the largest organic farm in the State of Maryland. Volunteers will plant a newly graded wetland in what was the old manure pond back when the farm was a dairy. Click here for more information.

September 22

  • Melfa, VA: The Eastern Shore of Virginia VoiCeS Course, an eight-week adult education class on Tuesdays, starts September 22! The course will cover regional environmental issues affecting the Eastern Shore of Virginia and the Bay watershed. The program provides information on subjects affecting the health of our community's natural environment and how you can take action. In-depth sessions are taught by Bay experts from CBF and other regional institutions and organizations. Click here to register!

September 26

  • Trappe, MD: Help CBF take out the trash! Join us in making the Choptank River cleaner and safer through a stream cleanup at the Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park. Click here to register!
  • Baltimore, MD: A vacant lot in West Baltimore is getting a facelift, with 4,000 shrubs, wild flowers, and grasses planted. Volunteers are needed for this urban restoration project that will reduce polluted runoff and beautify the neighborhood. Click here to register!
  • Solomons, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Solomon's Island September 26. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

September 27

  • Baltimore, MD: CBF's oyster gardening program is expanding to Baltimore Harbor! We're looking for 50 new gardeners to care for two cages of oysters each over the winter and then "plant" them on a reef in the spring. This unusual hobby is fun, educational and helps to clean the harbor waters. Register here!

September 30

  • York, PA: A good time is to be had by all at BrewVino. Residents can meet neighbors looking to protect local waterways and learn about new opportunities to get involved in ensuring clean water, healthy communities, and a thriving economy for York County. Oh, and there will be good food! Click here to register!

October 2

  • Annapolis, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Annapolis October 2. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

October 3

  • Easton, MD: Want to help restore the Bay's oyster population? Become an oyster gardener! New oyster gardeners are required to attend an Oyster Gardening Workshop before beginning their first year of gardening, such as one in Easton October 3. Returning gardeners can register to pick up spat. Click here to learn more!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


This Week in the Watershed

 

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Members of the Chesapeake Executive Council and other leaders. Photo by Emmy Nicklin/CBF Staff.

Recently, EPA, CBF, and the Choose Clean Water Coalition have found that while some progress is being made, Bay-wide efforts to reduce pollution are falling short of 2017 milestone goals. 

One of the central tenets that sets the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint apart from past Bay restoration commitments is having two-year milestone assessments. These assessments are not only to hold states accountable for progress but also to reassess what improvements can be made moving forward.

Given all this, while there were some encouraging remarks at Thursday's Chesapeake Bay Executive Council  it will be the actions taken by the states and federal partners that truly save the Bay. And so, we will continue to raise our voices for pollution reduction, holding our leaders accountable for the health of the Bay and our local rivers and streams.

This Week in the Watershed: Executive Council, Urban Trees, and Principals Outside

  • The Chesapeake Bay Executive Council met Thursday at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. This gathering of influential public officials representing Bay-state and federal stakeholders highlighted how the Bay is getting cleaner, but failed to address how we are dangerously behind schedule. (WAMU) Also check out the CBF Twitter feed where we live tweeted the meeting.
  • Recent reports show that oysters are doing well in the Severn River. (Capital Gazette—MD)
  • Water quality and keeping cattle out of streams are deeply interwoven. This best management practice is being encouraged throughout the watershed. (Baltimore Sun—MD)
  • Here at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we love trees. Beautifying neighborhoods, reducing pollution, and improving water quality, they're simply awesome. It's, therefore, no surprise that we're big fans of the tree love going on in Fredericksburg, VA. (Bay Journal)
  • Immersing school principals and administrators in outdoor environmental education programs is a great way to encourage environmental literacy in our schools. Administrators from Manchester Valley High School in Maryland recently had a great trip to CBF's education facility on Port Isobel. (Carroll County Times—MD)
  • Way to go, Frederick County, MD, for investing heavily in restoration efforts to reduce stormwater runoff. This investment will likely pay for itself and then some. (Frederick News-Post—MD)
  • Former Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh eloquently explains the history of Chesapeake Bay restoration and convincingly argues for clear, specific, and measurable restoration goals. (Philly.com—PA)

What's Happening Around the Watershed?

July 25

  • Folks on the Eastern Shore of Virginia are invited to learn about native plant landscaping at an exciting, educational event: "Trees, Bees, and Clean Water: Connecting the Dots." Experts will help attendees learn about the pollinating power of birds, butterflies, and bees, how to landscape to reduce polluted runoff, how to build a rain garden, and more. Space is limited, and registration is required. E-mail Tatum Ford at tford@cbf.org to reserve your spot!
  • Get an in-depth education of one of the most energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings in the world by getting a tour of CBF's Brock Environmental Center. Reservations are strongly recommended but not required. Call 757-622-1964 or e-mail BrockCenterGreenTours@cbf.org.

July 28

  • In preparation for stormwater medallion placement on July 30, CBF will be distributing door hangers with information about how citizens can reduce their impact on the waterways! E-mail Blair Blanchette at bblanchette@cbf.org or call 804-780-1392 to participate.

July 30

  • Join CBF as we place stormwater medallions in Oak Grove, Richmond. This unique volunteer opportunity allows you to have a positive impact on the Bay while also using a caulk gun! E-mail Blair Blanchette at bblanchette@cbf.org or call 804-780-1392 to participate.

July 31

  • Another opportunity to get a tour of the Brock Environmental Center. Reservations are strongly recommended but not required. Call 757-622-1964 or e-mail BrockCenterGreenTours@cbf.org.

August 1

  • This annual benefit for CBF draws kayakers, paddle boarders and all kinds of other paddlers—from novice to advanced—from far and wide for a race at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. CBF is looking for five to six volunteers to assist with event/race logistics and share information with the attendees. To volunteer, please e-mail or call Tanner Council at tcouncil@cbf.org or 757-622-1964. To join the races, click here!

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate


Angler Clean Water Story: The Benefits of Habitat Creation

19052267_25244661_redrelease13As a full-time fly and light tackle fishing guide on the Chesapeake Bay, I find environmental and ecological restoration of the bay vital to the future of my profession. With CBF at the lead, many aspects of water quality in the bay have improved. This is a huge accomplishment considering the stress put on the resource by a large increase in human development in the watershed.

I believe habitat loss is the largest issue hampering the biological carrying capacity of the Chesapeake. Possibly more than 90 percent of the Chesapeake's three-dimensional bottom structure has been lost due to declines in natural oyster reefs and seagrass flats. Anglers can see the effects of habitat loss first hand. I have personally witnessed the disappearance of eelgrass flats. These once productive fishing spots have turned into barren deserts that no longer support biological diversity.

On the other hand, I have seen the positive benefit of habitat restoration projects. The restoration of three-dimensional biological communities through man-made habitat creation is exciting from an angler's perspective. Unproductive two-dimensional bottom is turned into thriving biological communities through projects likes CBF's reef ball program. Anglers are one of the greatest beneficiaries of habitat creation since gamefish are attracted to the variety of forage fish, crabs, shrimp, and worms that 3D habitat supports. One of CBF's reef ball sites has become a reliable fishing stop for me while running fishing charters.

Whether through donations or voluntary participation in CBF reef ball projects, anglers can help turn the tide on habitat loss. It is a win-win for the resource and your fishing experience!

—Chris Newsome, Gloucester, Virginia

As an avid angler, what does the Bay and its rivers and streams mean to you? Share your fishing clean water story or read others here!


Oyster Migration: Fact or Fiction?


ShellyOyster Shelly is on the move! After vacationing in the Caribbean Sea for the winter, she, along with the osprey, have come back home to the Chesapeake. We've been tracking Oysters Shelly, Rocky, and Pearl throughout their migration. Check it out . . .

APRIL FOOLS!!! While we know our favorite Chesapeake critters don't go far, there is actually a period of about three weeks when oyster larvae can indeed move around. As Dr. Elizabeth North, Associate Professor at the Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science says: 

"Although adult oysters remain fixed in one location, their eggs and larvae spend ~3 weeks as free-swimming plankton in the water column. During this planktonic stage, the young oysters pass through different stages of development, growing from fertilized eggs, to trocophores, to veligers, and finally to pediveligers. The pediveliger stage is the stage at which larvae search for suitable substrate to which they cement themselves, leaving the water column and becoming fixed on the bottom. This "settlement" of the larvae signals the end of the larval dispersal stage and the beginning of the juvenile stage. A suite of physical and biological factors influence larval dispersal and subsequent oyster larvae settlement. Circulation patterns are controlled by tides as well as freshwater flow and wind which can change between years, months, weeks and even days. These patterns, and differences in larval behavior, influence the direction and distance that larvae could be transported and the location where they ultimately settle.

"To predict oyster larval dispersal, we used two numerical models (i.e., computer simulations): a particle-tracking model and a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model of Chesapeake Bay. The coupled bio-physical modeling system has the ability to move particles due to currents velocities and turbulent mixing, and includes algorithms that give the particles "oyster larvae-like" behaviors. We use circulation predictions from five years in order to capture a range of physical conditions that likely influence larval dispersal. In addition, we used the best estimate of suitable present-day oyster habitat (oyster bars) and information from laboratory studies on larval behavior."

Visit Dr. North’s website to see her model of oyster larvae distribution in wet, average, and dry years. Note that she developed these animations seven years ago, when Maryland and Virginia were wrestling with the question of whether to introduce a non-native Asian oyster to the Chesapeake. Dr. North's research played a valuable role in the decision to concentrate restoration efforts on our native Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Thus the Eastern Oyster Animations are the only ones that apply to our Bay today. Remember that female oysters spawn huge numbers of eggs, and that larger oysters, clumped together, send out exponentially larger numbers. Mortality is high, but the more we concentrate their numbers, the faster the stocks increase.

The good news in these simulations is that they give us a flavor of how resilient our oyster can be if we understand its behavior and habitat needs as a species. With intelligent restoration efforts, we can once again rely on its reefs for natural water filtration, rich fish/crab habitat, and succulent seafood. 

John Page Williams, CBF’s Senior Naturalist

Wanna see some real migration? Check out our osprey tracking project! Now those birds travel far—some from as far away as South America!