Category Archives: Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay First Reef Ball© Deployment

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources sponsored a 2003 field test to assess the suitability of Reef Balls for catching a natural oyster spat set. The Maryland Environmental Service contracted the project and coordinated and managed the deployment. The original plan was to place 75 Reef Balls in the oyster sanctuary east of Point Lookout. Since this was a field test rather than a fishing reef, Tom O’Connell, MD DNR ‘s sponsor, accepted my suggestion as project manager for MES, to split the deployment between 3 sanctuaries, thereby increasing the potential for a natural spat set. This decision resulted in one of the alternate sites in upper Tangier Sound receiving a natural spat set. This video shows the first deployment trip off Point Lookout. The thriving oyster reef that subsequently developed at the alternate site is documented by a Chesapeake Bay Foundation video made a decade later that is on the CBF website. It was this reef, a field trial at the Horn Point oyster hatchery for hatchery spat sets directly onto Reef Balls, Reef Ball pour training and demonstration project sponsored by MES and the Oyster Recovery Partnership on Tilghman Island for the Tilghman Island Fish Haven, collaboration by MES and CBF for early Reef Ball pours for Maryland Bay waters, and success of Reef Balls with hatchery spat set at CBF’s Shady Side oyster hatchery with deployment at Hollicutts Noose Fish Haven, that were the foundation for the current use of Reef Balls for oyster restoration and fishing reefs in Bay and tributary waters. Recent Reef Ball reefs include 240 Reef Balls at Winchester Lump in the Severn River and Reef Balls that were poured at National Harbor and placed in Smoot Bay on the tidal Potomac.



From Wade’s post on Facebook.

a video at Chesapeake Bay Fishing Reefs on Facebook about the first deployment of Reef Balls in Maryland Bay waters. This Reef Ball project laid the foundation for today’s projects in Bay and tributary waters, including the Reef Balls that were poured at National Harbor and placed in Smoot Bay. I had the good fortune to direct the first placement in the video and participate as a volunteer for the National Harbor pour.

Students are involved in Reef Ball Production

June 20 2017 Chesapeake Bay Magazine

Tilghman Manmade Reef to Double in Size

On Wednesday, 140 concrete reef balls will be planted on the Tilghman Reef, off Tilghman Island.

Reef balls were first deployed in 2016. Photo: CCA Maryland

Reef balls were first deployed in 2016. Photo: CCA Maryland

The reef balls were built by students in STEM education programs, in Carroll and and Anne Arundel counties as well as Vienna, Virginia. The addition of the new reef balls will double the current size of the reef, making it one of the largest man-made, three-dimensional reefs in the Maryland part of the Bay.

The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) Maryland and Northern Virginia Chapters and the Building Conservation Trust, CCA’s National Habitat Program, will plant the reef balls.

Half of the 140 reef balls being deployed this summer were set with oyster spat. When the reef was started a year ago, just 72 reef balls were deployed. Stevenson University scientist Dr. Keith Johnson is monitoring the reef. Dr. Johnson estimates there were up to 2,000 juvenile oysters in each reef ball that was deployed last July.

The reef provides habitat for fish, oysters and other filter feeders. It also attracts fish, making it a great spot for recreational fishing.

Coastal Conservation Association Maryland posted this sonar shot of the reef ball deployment from July 2016. Just one year later you can see the they are productive habitat holding fish.

Coastal Conservation Association Maryland posted this sonar shot of the reef ball deployment from July 2016. Just one year later you can see the they are productive habitat holding fish.

CCA invites folks to join in this time around: Wednesday June 21, 2017 for our next deployment and be part of the fun and help the bay! See for details.


Retreived from:

From the Baltimore Sun

A broad partnership led by the Maryland and Virginia chapters of the Coastal Conservation Association, a group of recreational anglers, dumped nearly 150 of them overboard just off the shores of Tilghman Island. They were laid alongside 72 reef balls that were dropped last year.

The project united the anglers with environmentalists, business sponsors and students for a common objective: cleaning the Chesapeake for the sake of its ecology and for its economic power.

The strategy for restoring the bay’s oyster population has become divisive in recent years, with debates over where watermen should be allowed to harvest and how much of the shellfish population should be held in sanctuary.

Projects such as the Tilghman Island reef show the industry and science don’t have to be at odds, said Del. Robert Flanagan, who joined Schoberg and two Carroll County teachers Wednesday to watch the new reef be built.

“We can have sanctuaries and still have this thriving industry,” the Ellicott City Republican said. “We can do both.”

The Coastal Conservation Association funded the $20,000 project largely through its Building Conservation Trust, a program that aims to restore or create new habitats for fish and other marine organisms.

It pulled in the support of groups such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation whose ship, the Patricia Campbell, was used to ferry and drop the reef balls, and companies like Lehigh Heidelberg Cement Group, which supplied the concrete, said David Sikorski, executive director of the association’s Maryland chapter.

And they employed the labor of students from across the bay watershed — including a handful of Carroll County schools, the Anne Arundel Center For Applied Technology North, and James Madison High School in Vienna, Va.

About half of the reef balls planted Wednesday were each covered in about 2,000 baby oysters, grown by the bay foundation at its Oyster Restoration Center in Shady Side. That made them already a dingy gray as the ship’s crane lowered them into the bay, four at a time.

Students made the reef balls with fiberglass molds developed by Georgia-based nonprofit the Reef Ball Foundation. They mixed the concrete, poured it in the molds and waited for them to set.

Underwater surveys and photos of last year’s reef balls show an area of bay bottom that would otherwise be barren sand is teeming with life. They are part of an 84-acre artificial reef that also contains bridge decking, tires and granite, according to the Maryland Artificial Reef Initiative, a program of the state natural resources department.

Allison Sweeney and Bethany Baer, fourth-grade teachers at Elmer Woolfe Elementary School in Union Bridge, said the project came amidst lessons about bay ecology and water quality and about the history of Maryland’s seafood industry. The two tagged along Wednesday to snap photos to share with their students.

“In social studies we talk about the job of the bay,” Sweeney said. “We talked about how our natural resources affect what we can do in our society.”

The lessons stuck with Schober. She remembered seeing pictures of massive piles of oyster shells, from back when there were nearly 100 times more of the bivalves across the bay.

“Now there’s just barely any left,” she said.

But one of her favorite lessons was about the Chesapeake “Oyster Wars,” conflicts in the late 1800s and early 1900s between watermen and pirates who dredged for oysters illegally. That conflict, and the ongoing struggles of watermen on the bay, taught her the economic importance of oyster harvesting.

“You can’t say ‘don’t do it for a month,’ because some people make their money that way,” Schober said.

Retrieved from:

Chesapeake Bay Reef Balls Update Oct 2016

YRSCB Participates in CBF Oyster Reef Building

CBF Oyster Ball Reef Workshop, October 18, 2016

Instruction from JackieWe met at the VIMS boat basin at 8:30 am on a beautiful autumn morning. Several participants were seasoned veterans of the process and quickly got to work disassembling reef ball molds from a previous build. The group, along with other volunteers and CBF members, were anticipating delivery of concrete at 10am and we were ready – but the truck had issues. After much waiting for our concrete, the bucket brigade began. We finished early with many hands making light work and even had time to help with stuffing concrete by hand into the smaller “lego-style” reefs designed for homeowners.

So what does CBF’s Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager, Jackie Shannon, think of YRSCB participation in this project?

“We are so grateful for the support that the York River and Small Coastal Basin Roundtable has provided the Chesapeake Bay Foundation over the past four years. The funding and volunteerism that this group has provided has resulted in the construction of 100 oyster reef balls. I am pleased to say that we are working with other restoration partners to install the reef balls into the Piankatank River next spring (2017)!

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) owns a significant amount of land in the Piankatank watershed – many acres that border the river directly. TNC contacted CBF about partnering on a project that would protect some stretches of their shoreline that are experiencing active erosion. Over the last several months, CBF has been in discussion with The Nature Conservancy, Old Dominion University, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to discuss the best way to develop a project that documents coastal resiliency. We agree that reef balls would be an ideal structure to protect the shoreline while also creating three dimensional habitat for oysters and other Bay species to utilize.

We propose to install two 100’ long berms each constructed using 50 reef balls each that will be seeded with an existing population of live oysters in our tanks at VIMS prior to deployment. The reef balls were all constructed and funded by members of the York River & Small Coastal Basins Roundtable.”

Hard workYRSCB members taking part in the 2016 reef ball building were:

  • Jim Tate, HCSWCD
  • Karen Reay, York Roundtable webmaster
  • Page Hutchinson, VDOF
  • Pattie Bland, HCSWCD
  • Anna Reh-Gingerich, DEQ-PRO
  • Kaitlin Ranger, DEQ-PRO
  • Katie Abel,TCCSWCD
  • Izabela Sikora,TCCSWCD
  • Rebecca Shoemaker, DEQ-NRO
  • Michael Steen, Watermens Musuem
  • Beverly Nunnally

See photos (courtesy of Pattie Bland, Karen Reay and Jim Tate) below and click on each photo to enlarge.

To learn more about why oyster reef balls benefit Chesapeake Bay, see Restoring the “Coral Reefs” of the Chesapeake Bay or contact Jackie Shannon, Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 804-832-8804

Completed reefballs Reef mold assembly Concrete truck
Meeting at Reservation Pattie assembling molds Waiting for concrete
Bucket brigade Working, tapping Mixed concrete top
Coast Guard visitors Bridge Boat Basin Channel
Assembly of molds Oyster bags

Shellfish Study

Studying oyster growth on a Reef Ball CBF photo
Studying oyster growth on a Reef Ball CBF photo

This  Oyster sive Reef Ball was pulled up so scientists could survey the growth.  The Reef Ball was placed on the Lafayette-River in Virginia.  Photo – September 8, 2016

Oyster Ball

Norfolk’s Lafayette River Oyster Restoration Article from 2010

Retreived from Bay Daily

Image result for shellfish restoration using reef balls

Exciting News from a Troubled River

Great news to report about oysters in, of all places, one of the most stressed river systems in the entire Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) scientists are finding lots of healthy, fast-growing oysters in Norfolk’s Lafayette River, a tributary of the Elizabeth River. The discovery bodes well for improving water quality – and restoring a thriving oyster population – in this historic river.

First, a little background: the Lafayette is the northern-most tributary of the Elizabeth River, a historic
but troubled waterway whose four branches (Western Branch, Eastern Branch, Southern Branch Lrand Lafayette) drain four cities and some of South Hampton Roads’ most industrialized areas. As a result, the Elizabeth system is among the Bay’s worst pollution “hot spots,” with some areas containing bottom sediments laden with toxic chemicals from decades-old pollution.The Lafayette River, bordered largely by homes, museums, marinas, and marshes, is less severely polluted but remains among the most urbanized rivers in the Bay watershed. It suffers from many of the Bay’s classic problems: too much runoff, too many algal blooms, too much bacteria, and too little oxygen.

CBF, the Elizabeth River Project, the City of Norfolk, and other partners are working with theVirginia Institute of Marine Science to restore water quality in the river. All believe that oyster restoration will be integral to success.

DSC_0160To that end, CBF is expanding the number of volunteer citizen oyster gardeners in the Lafayette. Additionally, last summer we placed 50 concrete reef balls, many of them coated with a skin of living baby oysters, or spat, in the river to create a manmade reef. We hoped the reef balls would prove suitable homes for the baby oysters as well as attract and grow more wild oysters.

CBF scientists also began a comprehensive survey of the oyster population in the Lafayette, examining 22 miles of shoreline to look for oysters. We also recruited scores of waterfront residents to participate in a “spat catcher” program.

Spat catchers — small cages containing 50 recycled oyster shells – were suspended from more than 80 SpatCatcherRoundup 040residents’ backyard piers and docks. We wanted to see how many free-floating baby oysters in the river would attach to the shells. By later comparing the numbers of spat in the various shell cages, CBF oyster scientists hoped to determine which parts of the Lafayette may hold the greatest potential for future oyster restoration efforts.

Last weekend, a CBF team of scientists, interns, and volunteers pulled up the spat catchers and tallied the results. Here is how CBF Oyster Restoration and Fisheries Scientist Tommy Leggett described it:

Lafayette.spat“This is one of the most exciting things I think we’ve ever done…We had some of the most remarkable spat sets on the shells that I’ve ever seen in the wild, and especially for the Elizabeth River system. Some shells had spat numbers that rivaled what we produce in our spat-on-shell tanks (at CBF’s oyster farm). “  For example, the shell in the photo at left had a remarkable 28 spat attached (photo by Chip Finch).

A few days later, Leggett, CBF Oyster Restoration Specialist Jackie Shannon, and CBF Reef Ball Technician Laura Engelund inspected the concrete reef balls CBF placed in the Lafayette last June.

“We’ve been anxiously wondering how the oyster spat on the reef balls fared over the summer and didn’t quite know what to expect once we got back this week,” Engelund said. “We were amazed at the size of the oysters! In four months they have grown from baby spat to near market IMG_6484  size. They are significantly larger than we anticipated and cover the reef balls nearly 100 percent. We put in a couple of reef balls without spat and were pleased to find a natural set growing quite nicely on those as well. The reef balls we planted without spat are easy to recognize in the photographs: smaller oysters and fewer in number. But they all got there by themselves!”

Pictures are worth a thousand blogging words, so take a look at what’s happening in the Lafayette.

What does it all mean for the river’s future? The preliminary data suggest there’s a healthy oyster population in the Lafayette River, says Leggett (below, center, with Jackie Shannon, left, and Laura Engelund, right, and one of the Lafayette reef balls).

IMG_6490“But the river has limited habitat for baby oysters to settle upon. Most of the natural oyster bars/rocks are gone, silted over, or have sunk beneath the river bottom. What the river needs now is more oyster shell or hard substrate like reef balls for oysters to attach to.”

And Leggett added, “Efforts to improve water quality by reducing nitrogen from sewage treatment plants and runoff from lawns and storm drains will provide better conditions for a recovering oyster population.”

CBF and its Lafayette River partners will be working to address these issues in the months and years to come. Stay tuned for more good news!

By Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation


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I read your post. I am a driller but I drill for environmental testing. I like to keep informed so thanks and keep on posting. It was really interesting because I live in Virginia and my Mom lived on the River you are speaking of in this post. I am pleased to here that progress is being made. Thanks again. I really enjoyed it.