As a part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Maryland committed to restoring oyster populations in five tributaries in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay by 2025. Responsibility for achieving this goal rests with the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team (Fisheries GIT). In 2012, the Fisheries GIT established the Maryland Interagency Workgroup consisting of representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Baltimore District, Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to facilitate oyster restoration by coordinating efforts among the state and federal agencies, in consultation with the scientific, academic, industry and oyster restoration communities. The tributaries chosen for restoration in Maryland are Harris Creek, Little Choptank, Tred Avon, Upper St. Marys and Manokin Rivers.
Harris Creek Restoration Project
Harris Creek was selected as the first tributary for large-scale oyster restoration by the Maryland Interagency Workgroup based on water quality, available restorable bottom, protection from harvest, and historical spat set. It was established as a sanctuary in 2010 and restoration began in 2011.
Little Choptank River Restoration Project
The Little Choptank River was selected as the second tributary for large-scale oyster restoration by the Maryland Interagency Workgroup based on water quality favorable for oyster growth and reproduction, a large amount of restorable bottom, and good historical spat set. It was established as a sanctuary in 2010 and restoration began in 2014.
Tred Avon River Restoration Project
The Tred Avon River was selected as the third tributary for large-scale oyster restoration by the Maryland Interagency Workgroup based on water quality favorable for oyster growth and reproduction, available restorable bottom, and historical presence of oysters. It was established as a sanctuary in 2010 and restoration began in 2015.
Upper St. Mary’s River Restoration
The Upper St. Mary’s River oyster sanctuary was selected as the fourth tributary in Maryland waters in 2017 for large-scale oyster restoration. Historically strong oyster recruitment, favorable water quality, its location in the Western Shore, as well as strong support from the local environmental community led to its selection for restoration. It was established as a sanctuary in 2010 and restoration is slated to begin in 2021.
The Manokin River was recommended as the fifth large-scale tributary for oyster restoration in Maryland waters in September 2018. The Fisheries Goal Implementation Team accepted it as the fifth large-scale tributary for restoration in June 2019. It was established as a sanctuary in 2010 and restoration is slated to begin in 2021.
The department allocates a small amount of funds annually for investment in small-scale restoration in sanctuaries outside of the five tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. These funds go towards planting hatchery spat-on-shell.
Nanticoke River Restoration
In a December 15, 2017 press release, DNR announced the intention to design and develop oyster management plans for other sanctuaries in addition to the five tributaries. Specifically, the press released stated the Nanticoke River would have a plan developed to determine how the strategic use of state investment and resources could restore oyster populations, using planted seed, shell and spat to spur natural oyster growth and reproduction.
Anne Arundel Complex Restoration- Magothy, Severn and South Rivers
In a September 5, 2018 press release, DNR announced the intention to study and survey existing state oyster sanctuaries in Anne Arundel County, including the Severn River Sanctuary and to work with the local watershed associations to maximize the restoration potential in the tributaries.
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