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World’s Largest Oyster Restoration Is Big Success – Fulfilling Virginia’s Promise to Chesapeake Bay Rivers

Granite rocks being positioned within the Piankatank River to kind an oyster reef/ Patrick Bloodgood; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Biologists working to revive the Chesapeake Bay oyster populations are claiming the largest success in human historical past, as complete reefs of oysters return to greater than 400 acres of estuarine ecosystem.

Nowhere is that this success extra highlighted than alongside the Piankatank River, the place The Nature Conservancy Virginia Chesapeake Bay Program has taken the primary steps to restoring what was 7,000 acres of oyster reefs.

The Piankatank is what’s referred to as a “trap estuary,” the place nutrient high quality and calm waters imply oysters can flourish with out their larvae being washed out into the bay. It’s simply one among a number of main tributaries that move into the bay that are experiencing a renaissance in oyster life.

To date, 4 of six out of Virginia’s main tributaries have met their oyster restoration targets. Director of the Conservancy’s bay program referred to as it “the largest completed oyster restoration project on the planet” when he spoke to The Virginia Mercury.

“Water quality and fish is really what it boils down to,” stated Director Andy Lacatell. “Oysters improve water quality, and they provide habitat for fish and crabs and other critters that are both recreationally and commercially important.”

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In 2014, organic plummeting within the Chesapeake, the nation’s largest estuary, noticed the six watershed states, the EPA, and the Chesapeake Bay Commission come collectively to kind the Bay Watershed Agreement, which might goal to revive oyster populations within the 10 main feeder rivers by 2025.

MORE: Scientists Work to Turn the Tide of Oyster and Seagrass Decline in Chesapeake Bay, Often by Hand

In VA, the Great Wicomico, Piankatank, and Lafayette rivers have all been restored as per the plan, with solely the Lynnhaven and decrease York rivers remaining. State Governor Ralph Northam voluntarily added the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River to Virginia’s checklist final yr.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission has been accountable for a lot of the reef-building, which included 100 acres simply final yr. The Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences can also be a significant participant in oyster restoration, creating “oyster castles” in different rivers just like the Rappahannock and the Elizabeth, and serving to the bivalves attain the extra superior ages of 5-7 years—when the animal’s fecundity turns into biggest.

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Experts consider that the strategies at present being employed, resembling utilizing concrete particles to create the bottom for oysters to cling on to, and the speed at which reefs are being restored, will see the state meet its 2025 targets. That’s excellent news certainly.

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