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Center for


Environment & Society

Oyster Restoration

Hail Cove—an important waterfowl site—was restored by constructing headland breakwaters, laying an arc of stone to promote oyster habitat, and planting aquatic vegetation to protect the isthmus sandbar from erosion. Washington College and the Friends were among 17 partners who contributed to the Hail Cove Restoration project, and in April 2010 received a Coastal America Partnership Award for these efforts. Find out more about Hail Cove.

Oyster Restoration

The Center for Environment & Society at Washington College began its oyster stewardship efforts in 2008 with community volunteers on the Chester River and 25 Taylor floats at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Funded by a grant from the  Friends of Eastern Neck, these projects culminated in 20 bushels of oysters that were placed on a new oyster bar at Hail Cove in September 2009. Hail Cove— an important waterfowl site— was restored by constructing headland breakwaters, laying an arc of stone to promote oyster habitat, and planting aquatic vegetation to protect the isthmus sandbar from erosion. Washington College and the Friends were among 17 partners who contributed to the Hail Cove Restoration project, and in April 2010 received a Coastal America Partnership Award for these efforts. Find out more about Hail Cove.

Maryland Grows Oysters

Starting in 2010, the College is partnering with the Maryland Grows Oysters Program (MGO) to continue restoration projects along the Chester River. The state program is designed to foster stewardship and enhance education of the Chesapeake Bay’s resources. Citizen volunteers with waterfront access are given mailbox-sized cages filled with spat (seed oysters) to be hung on their piers so that the oysters can be free to grow without the threat of predation and siltation. With careful maintenance from the oyster grower and periodic dunking of the cages to prevent siltation, the oysters will be ready for transplanting to a local oyster sanctuary in about 9 months. Cages and oysters are given free of charge!

You can download a pdf of the information below by clicking here.

A program coordinator is available to help determine the suitability of your property. If you think you may have a viable site, please consider:

Salinity

Salinity levels are a limiting factor for oyster survival. Oysters grow and reproduce quicker in higher salinity waters, but they are also more susceptible to disease. The Chester’s relatively low salinity waters will support oysters but with lower mortality due to a lower presence of disease. Sites down river of South East Creek typically have high enough salinity for the program.

Water Depth

Oyster cages need at least 16” of water at low tide and must be below ice in the dead of winter. Oysters can be exposed to warm air for a number of hours and survive but even short periods of exposure to freezing air temperatures can kill them.

Securing Cages

Cages need to be secured to a dock so they are easily retrievable. Underneath a dock is a great place—the pilings allow for easy tie-off and the cages and lines will not become a navigation issue. Tying cages to a mooring is also possible, but you must be able to routinely access the cages in all seasons for maintenance.

Maintenance & Monitoring

Dunking the cages once or twice a week will help kept silt and sediment off the oysters, which can suffocate the vulnerable spat. Once the water warms the cages will begin to foul. Taking the cages out of the water and allowing them to dry for 2 hours will help limit algal growth. If algal growth persists or becomes heavy, remove the cages and scrub them with a wire brush. Consistent cleaning will limit competition from other species (like barnacles) and increase water flow to allow the oysters to feed. You may monitor growth and mortality rates, and observe things like other species living with the oysters, to give to DNR’s Bay-wide database on oyster restoration.

Program Timeline

  • Sept: Oyster Recovery Partnership delivers cages and bags with spat on shell. First year oyster growers will come and collect cages and spat, current members will come and collect spat only.
  • Oct-February: Dormant period due to falling water temperatures. Be mindful of low tides and ice on lines. Periodic dunking will be necessary to prevent siltation on shells.
  • March: Oysters are feeding more; make sure cages and oysters are clean to allow for appropriate water flow.
  • April: Oysters are actively feeding and may reach to dime size. Cages will need to be maintained regularly to prevent fouling.
  • April: MGO Picnic to be held at the Hynson Pavilion on the Chester River waterfront.
  • May/June: Oysters are collected and planted in a Chester River sanctuary. Pass cages on to a waterfront neighbor or welcome another batch of spat.

Contact Project Manager Mike Hardestymhardesty2@washcoll.edu or 410-810-7488 for more information.