Eighteen million oysters were planted on a sanctuary near Tilghman Point in Eastern Bay this Thursday as part of Operation Build-a-Reef: Eastern Bay. The planting was the culmination of a two-year fundraising effort by ShoreRivers, in partnership with Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), and other key supporters. Oysters provide valuable ecosystem services by filtering water and creating vital habitats for other marine species, including Maryland’s iconic blue crab and rockfish.
Operation Build-a-Reef: Eastern Bay’sgoal was to support oyster restoration efforts by planting millions of these beneficial bivalves in the local watershed. An initial planting of 70 million oysters was completed by ORP in 2022, with funding provided by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Thursday’s planting was also conducted by ORP and was fully funded by ShoreRivers’ network of supporters who raised the stakes—and the impact—by donating nearly $80,000 for the newest residents of Eastern Bay. Oyster larvae were supplied by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Lab in Cambridge.
“The waterways of Eastern Bay, including the Miles and Wye rivers, suffer from excess nitrogen and sediment pollution,” says Miles-Wye Riverkeeper Ben Ford. “Thanks to generous support from many individuals, businesses, and foundations, we’re proud that we’re able to support direct oyster restoration work here on the Shore.”
Oyster Recovery Partnership, the nonprofit expert in Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration, has planted more than 10 billion oysters and recycled 280,000+ bushels of oyster shell since its founding in 1994. ORP began the Build-a-Reef program to encourage community-supported reef building efforts Bay-wide. To date, the Build-a-Reef program has resulted in more than130 million oysters planted in three Bay tributaries.
“We’re pleased to be working again with our partners at ShoreRivers to rebuild oyster populations here in Eastern Bay. A lot of our work is focused on large-scale restoration projects in remote areas of the Eastern Shore and we’re happy to be working closer to home and sharing our work with our neighbors. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received,” said Ward Slacum, executive director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership.
Operation Build-a-Reef: Eastern Bay benefitted from the support of corporate partners including Bosun’s Marine, who offered to match gifts made by its customers in support of the effort, and Smyth Jewelers who donated 1,000 oysters for every engagement ring sold. Many donors, and staff from Bosun’s, ShoreRivers, and the Oyster Recovery Partnership were on hand to watch the planting.
ShoreRivers protects and restores Eastern Shore waterways through science-based advocacy, restoration, and education.