Yesterday, the Severn River Association (SRA) and the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) planted 30 million juvenile oysters in the Severn River as part of an ongoing effort known as “Operation Build a Reef” to restore oysters to the iconic waterway. This is the fourth year that the organizations have teamed up to raise funds to rebuild vital oyster reefs aimed at restoring the health of the Severn. Oysters filter harmful pollutants from the water and provide vital habitat for other marine species, including Maryland’s iconic blue crab and rockfish.
Operation Build-a-Reef solicits community support for small-scale oyster restoration projects. Since 2018, the Severn River Association and Oyster Recovery Partnership have raised enough to plant over 115 million oysters on sanctuary reefs in the Severn River.
“The Severn River Association is delighted to continue our partnership with ORP in this effort to deliver millions of young oysters to the Severn,” said Jesse Iliff, executive director of the Severn River Association. “Restoring oyster populations in the river is a critical component of our restoration strategy, and this planting will install a considerable population of oysters to an area of the river that hasn’t had them for decades. With each planting like this, we come closer to realizing our vision of a thriving Severn River.”
“Much of ORP’s work is focused on large-scale restoration projects on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and we’re pleased to target the Severn River again this year with Operation Build-a-Reef,” said Ward Slacum, executive director of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, an Annapolis-based nonprofit that manages much of the state’s oyster restoration strategy.
Build-a-Reef efforts Bay-wide are sponsored by Smyth Jewelers, “Smyth is thrilled to sponsor ORP’s Build-a-Reef campaign again this year. The Chesapeake watershed is an integral part of our beloved Maryland’s future, and we are honored to help with this cause. By committing to plant 1,000 oysters for every engagement ring sold through the season, we hope to help ORP accomplish its mission of oyster restoration in the region again this year.” says Bob Yanega, Chief Financial Officer of Smyth Jewelers.
Maryland is midway through a plan to rebuild oyster populations in Chesapeake Bay tributaries through a partnership of the federal and state governments and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Lab in Cambridge, MD. To date, nearly ten billion juvenile oysters have been planted on sanctuary and public reefs.
“Restoring the Severn River and the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed requires an all-hands-on-deck approach – from our fight at the federal level to secure millions of dollars in oyster restoration funding to the key on-the-ground efforts led by organizations like the Severn River Association and the Oyster Recovery Partnership,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Appropriations Committee. “Today’s Operation Build-a-Reef planting marks another important step toward a revitalized Severn River and a healthier Bay, and I’ll keep working in Congress to ensure these vital efforts can continue for years to come.”
Today’s announcement was made at an event at the Annapolis Maritime Museum within view of the targeted reef and attended by State Senator Sarah Elfreth and Delegate Dana Jones.