Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Research Publications: UM-SG-RS-2011-17


Lessons learned from efforts to restore oyster populations in Maryland and Virginia, 1990 to 2007.




Kennedy, VS; Breitburg, DL; Christman, MC; Luckenbach, MW; Paynter, K; Kramer, J; Sellner, KG; Dew-Baxter, J; Keller, C; Mann, R


Journal of Shellfish Research 30(3):719-731




A century-long decline of the fishery for the Eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin, 1791) in Maryland and Virginia stimulated numerous efforts by federal, state, and nongovernmental agencies to restore oyster populations, with limited success. To learn from recent efforts, we analyzed records of restoration and monitoring activities undertaken between 1990 and 2007 by 12 such agencies. Of the 1,037 oyster bars (reefs, beds, or grounds) for which we obtained data, 43% experienced both restoration and monitoring, with the remaining experiencing either restoration or monitoring only. Restoration activities involved adding substrate (shell), transplanting hatchery or wild seed (juvenile oysters), bar cleaning, and bagless dredging. Of these, substrate addition and transplanting seed were common actions, with bar cleaning and bagless dredging relatively uncommon. Limited monitoring efforts, a lack of replicated postrestoration sampling, and the effects of harvest on some restored bars hinders evaluations of the effectiveness of restoration activities. Future restoration activities should have clearly articulated objectives and be coordinated among agencies and across bars, which should also be off limits to fishing. To evaluate restoration efforts, experimental designs should include replication, quantitative sampling, and robust sample sizes, supplemented by pre- and postrestoration monitoring.

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