Severn River Receives Boatload Of Oysters Through Operation Build-A-Reef

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The Severn River Association and Oyster Recovery Partnership celebrated the planting of 16.9 million juvenile oysters in the Severn River on July 23, a project funded through the Operation Build-a-Reef campaign. The grassroots fundraiser provided a unique opportunity for the public to purchase bushels of spat-on-shell to enhance water-filtering oyster reefs within their local river.

The planting was originally slated for 2019, but efforts were postponed due to last year’s record rainfall, which resulted in low salinity and limited spat production. Efforts were finally realized in July, as the juvenile oysters made the four-hour journey by boat from Horn Point Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge, Maryland, onto a historic oyster bar at the mouth of Weems Creek, named Wade 2.

Operation Build-a-Reef began in July 2018, when ORP called on the public to help expand three protected oyster reefs in the Severn River. Thanks to the campaign, individual donors added 5.14 million additional oysters to the 40 million funded by the state of Maryland. Monitoring results of those oysters have proven positive, revealing low oyster mortality, abundant spat survival and growth, as well as large, healthy oysters from 2009 plantings. For more information, view the 2018 Severn River Spat on Shell Status Report.

With the overwhelming support and encouraging results, the Oyster Recovery Partnership and Severn River Association decided to again join forces for another oyster planting in the Severn River, the second round of Operation Build-a-Reef, which took place July 23. The organizations aim to make this an annual fundraiser to continue repopulating viable oyster reefs throughout the Severn.

This project was funded solely through donations from local businesses, foundations and individuals, and made possible by the Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery, which diligently worked to spawn oysters; the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which provided in-kind support; and the Severn River Association, which educated and engaged the local community.

ORP created Operation Build-a-Reef to help Marylanders support smaller oyster restoration projects within their local rivers. For more information on this campaign or to nominate a river, visit buildareef.org.

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