This week, a pair of Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) oyster restoration boats placed hundreds of
concrete reef balls in the Lafayette River in Norfolk, Va., part of a partnership effort to help restore native oysters to this historic river near the mouth of the Bay.
While the Bay’s oyster population generally remains seriously depressed, earlier surveys in the Lafayette indicate a relatively robust oyster population there, despite the river’s overall troubled health. Harvesting oysters has been banned in the Lafayette since the 1920s due to contamination associated with industrial activities and stormwater runoff.
But in 2011, CBF, the Elizabeth River Project, and more than 100 community partners announced a plan to bring the Lafayette back to health, including opening the river to safe shellfish harvesting by 2020.
To help nurture the river’s oyster population, CBF this week placed 275 reef balls on state-protected sanctuary reefs and along designated shorelines. The reef balls, domed concrete structures full of nooks and crannies, are designed to attract baby oysters and help protect them from natural predators. To tackle the reef ball job, CBF called upon its two uniquely designed oyster restoration vessels, the Patricia Campbell from Maryland and Chesapeake Gold from Gloucester, Va.