Water Quality Feed

Record Season for CBF's Maryland Oyster Restoration Center

ORC Good photo
CBF’s Maryland Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side (Photo by Karl Willey/CBF Staff)


Two Week Old Spat On Shell
Several of the 23 million ‘spat’ produced this year at MD’s Oyster Restoration Center. At this size approximately 2 weeks old they are placed our on a sanctuary reef to grow immediately they start to improve water quality and provide 3-dimensional habitat (Photo by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff)

At Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, Maryland it has been a recording setting season, with just over 23 million ‘spat’ (baby oysters) seeded on oysters reefs between May and October. Typically the center averages a ‘spat’ production between 15-18 million. We are ecstatic with this season’s numbers and the health of the young oysters being placed on sanctuary reefs throughout Maryland’s waters in the bay. Our success each season is due to the hard work and dedication of our volunteers


CBF Staff and volunteers about to seed ‘spat’ on shell on an oyster reef (Photo by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff)


At the Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, MD, we are especially indebted, as much of what we do would be nearly impossible without the help of our volunteers. Whether they have given us their time for year, a matter of weeks, or for just one event each and every one is an integral part of what makes the work we do possible. Many come from different backgrounds of discipline and are experts in varying fields, and each provides their own invaluable knowledge to the oyster restoration program.


2012 ORC Restoration Focus Areas
CBF’s MD Oyster Center’s 2012 Oyster Restoration Focus Areas


This season MD’s oyster restoration efforts were focused in the Choptank, Severn, and West Rivers. All of CBF’s projects in Maryland waters occur in sanctuary (non-harvest) areas as designated by Governor O’Malley.  After building or re-seeding existing reefs CBF’s oyster team monitors the health of our reefs checking for density, survival, natural ‘spat’ set, and presence of disease. The monitoring data is very encouraging; generally the reefs after one year have better than 75% survival rate. That is great news for the Chesapeake Bay. Check out what is going on below the surface.  The learn more about our program please visit our website. If you have any questions or want to volunteer please contact cthomas@cbf.org

Toadfish With Mature Oysters
A Toadfish blending in among healthy mature oysters in Choptank River (Photo by Michale Eversmier)
Black Sea Bass With Reef Ball In Choptank
This oyster reef in the Choptank River is healthy and thriving. Rare sighting of a Black Sea Bass in Maryland waters, yet another signs restoration is working (Photo by Michale Eversmier)

--Meghan Hoffman









Things Are ‘Spat’astic at CBF’s New Office in Easton, MD

On June 11, 2012 the Chesapeake Bay Foundation opened a new office on the Eastern Shore (pictured below), located in the heart of Easton. The new office in the Bullitt House on E. Dover Street (right across from the Tidewater Inn) will directly support our efforts to defend and implement the Bay clean water blueprint in Maryland.

CBF's MD Oyster Gardening Program was established in 1998 and has been serving as a method of direct engagement with improving the Bay's water quality for more than a decade. The fight for clean water is well under way but more needs to be done. CBF's Eastern Shore office is focusing on educating and motivating citizens to help support clean water efforts and fighting back against efforts to increase pollution in the area.

Clean Water Now With Oysters

On September 14th and September 22nd CBF's MD Oyster Gardeners stopped by Chesapeake BayFoundation's new office in Easton, MD to meet Bess Trout, MD's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist (shown below), and to pick up their new set of 'spat' from Meghan Hoffman and Carmera Thomas. Year after year CBF's oyster gardeners' on the Eastern Shore produce some great looking oysters.

Excited new gardeners Lee Travers and Barbara Catherwood (both shown in the photo below) attended CBF's Oyster Workshop on Sept 22nd and built 8 cages to hang off their pier. Recently they purchased a 10 acre tract of land (4 acres of wetlands) on the Little Choptank and were eager to help SAVE THE BAY!


Noah Bradshaw (shown below) a long time gardener from Crisfield, MD made the drive to Easton to pick up 8 bags of 'spat'. With the help of several volunteers, he tends a collection of Taylor Floats and cages at the Crisfield Museum. There is an educational oyster reef at the museum where visitors can learn the history of oystering in a watermen's community, and enjoy an interactive experience of tonging up oysters using hand nippers.

Just as the event was winding down on the first official day of fall, Eric Axilbund (shown below) pulls into the Bullit House parking lot eager to pick up his new set of 'spat' and to drop off close to 4,000 large and healthy yearling oysters. He is an energetic and enthusiastic gardener that keeps 12 cages of oysters off his dock, while a typical gardener keeps four. Most gardeners return their 'spat' in May, but Mr. Axilbund likes to see how big his oysters will get, so he tends his cages for a full year. His contribution doubled our oyster returns for the day!


CBF's Maryland Oyster Gardening Program only has two workshops left this fall, and we look forward to signing up new gardeners who are excited about restoring an important species in the Bay! Individual actions do make a difference, make a stand for CLEAN WATER NOW and join CBF's Oyster Gardening Program.

(Photos by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff. Photo One: CBF's Eastern Shore Office on the 3rd Floor of the Bullit Building. Photo Two: Choose Clean Water Now! and 2012 Oyster Gardening 'Spat' on Shell. Photo Three: Bess Trout CBF's Eastern Shore Grassroots Field Specialist covered in oyster much at Horn Point Labratory. Photo Four: Lee Travers and Barbara Catherwood of Cambridge, MD making their oyster gardening cages. Photo Five: Oyster Gardener Noah Bradshaw of Crisfield, MD. Photo Six: Oyster Gardener Eric Axilbund with his 2012 crop of yearling oysters. Photo Six: Oyster Love, Stickers, 'Spat' and More.)

-- Meghan Hoffman with contribution from Carmera Thomas

2012 Oyster Restoration Is in Full Swing!

1. Oyster larvae under the microscopeOyster larvae under a microscope. Photo courtesy of the VA Oyster Restoration Team.

The staff and volunteers of Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side, MD and sister center in Gloucester, VA have spent the spring getting ready for the next restoration season. As the oysters lay dormant in waters below as well as in the science labs where they are spawned, CBF’s oyster restoration team has been busy repairing tanks, performing boat maintenance, and planning the events for our upcoming season.

2. Carmera Thomas and Dan Johannes excited about the first set of oyster larvaeAt MD’s Oyster Restoration Center (ORC), our four setting tanks were filled with more than 30 tons of shell before May 1. The oyster team was patiently awaiting news from University of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, MD that the first batch of oyster larvae was available. Two hard working alternative spring break groups (UMD and VA Tech) helped clean all the shell (shell shaking) for this season’s first set that includes 32 cages of shell that weight approximately a ton each. On Tuesday May 3 the first round of oyster
larvae from Horn Point totaling just over 7 million was divided and released into each of our four tanks.

7. The 'spat' are visable to the naked eye after 10 days in the tanks.The first oyster set of this season is now approaching the two-week mark in the tanks and the baby ‘spat’ are visible to the trained naked eye. The oyster larvae, known as "spat" for the first year of life, are free swimming for approximately two weeks of their entire life cycle. When they arrive from UMD’s Horn Point they are referred to as an "eyed larvae." They have a dark spot  "false eye" on their newly forming translucent shell and a false foot that will aid in attaching  to hard substrate as they each drop out of the water column. These four tanks of spat on shell are bound for a sanctuary reef in the Severn River.

—Meghan Hoffman

To learn more about our oyster restoration efforts, visit our website.

(Second photo: CBF's Carmera Thomas and Dan Johannes excited about the first set of oyster larvae at MD's ORC. Photo by Karl Willey/CBF Staff. Third photo: The 'spat' are visable to the naked eye after 10 days in the tanks. Photo by Meghan Hoffman/CBF Staff.)