south river restoration


Large Scale Oyster Restoration:

Through our partnerships with Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Oyster Recovery Partnership, the Federation helps "plant" massive loads of young oysters on South River bars each year. Through Chesapeake Bay Foundation, we are able to place large quantities of oyster spat (baby oysters) in to the River. We will be spreading almost 2 million oysters in the fall of 2017! However, the spat are about 1.5 cm in size attached to existing oyster shell that are recovered from restaurants around the bay region. Mortality for young spat is very high, but the host shells also provided structure and habitat for countless other aquatic wildlife and help kick start an oyster reef eco-system. Rockfish and blue crabs (striped bass) often are found around oyster reefs.

The Federation coordinates about 80 oyster growers around the river through the Marylanders Grows Oyster Program, who care for square cages of oysters that they hang of their piers. This provides some filtration (mature oysters can filter about 30-50 gallons of water a day!) and micro oyster-reef habitat up in the creeks. It only takes a few weeks for oyster-based aquatic wildlife like mud crabs, scuds, blennies, and gobies to find their way to the oyster cages. Growers provide about 70,000 oysters a year to our sanctuary reef. Since the oysters are almost a year old and about an inch long, they have much better mortality rates.

The South River Federation has partnered with Parrish Henderson, who mapped the best sites for oyster restoration in the South River using the Federation's water quality data and bottom composition. His work will help inform how the Federation targets its oyster restoration.  Full Screen Map HERE.

 thumbprint oyster small



New Restoration Techniques:

The Federation is currently planning to install a living shoreline that incorporates oyster reefballs. While oyster reef balls have been used to prevent erosion, using them as part of a living shoreline is rare, especially in Maryland. Jaclyn Fisher, Chesapeake Conservation Corps member for the Federation in 2016-2017 conducted her capstone project for the year on the logistics involved when incorporating reef balls. See her project here.


Marylanders Grows Oyster Program:

The South River Federation, in partnership with Marylanders Grow Oysters, gives hundreds of waterfront property owners the opportunity to participate in hands on oyster restoration.  Those with access to community piers or have their own, grow millions of young oysters in cages suspended from private piers each year. Their goal? To protect young oysters during their vulnerable first year of life, so they may be planted on local sanctuaries where the oysters enrich the ecosystem and our oyster population. By fostering these young oysters, our citizen partners are also generating an abundance of fish and other aquatic life and creating live bottom, populated by oysters and other creatures, on sanctuaries closed to harvesting.  

Registration Deadline for the 2017-2018 oyster growing season was July 15th.

Email Nancy Merrill (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) to reserve your oyster spat for next year!


Requirements for growing oysters:

  1. Attend an oyster husbandry workshop hosted by the South River Federation.
  2. Growers are responsible for picking up their oyster spat in late summer or early fall during select spat pickup times.  No deliveries.
  3. Maintain oyster cages throughout growing season.  This includes cleaning the spat and cages on a regular basis and ensuring that the spat remain below the frozen surface water during the winter.
  4. Oyster Growers are responsible for depositing their oysters in the Glebe Bay sanctuary at the end of the annual program either by boat or by driving them to a set location.  This is done during the South River Days Oyster Flotilla - usually the early part of June.

Oyster Growing Manual and Standard Operating Procedures

Each Oyster Grower that attends a workshop will receive a copy of our Oyster Growers' Manual.  The manual includes the Standard Operating Procedures, maps highlighting harvested and protected sanctuaries in the South River, as well as other informational resources.

mgocoverOyster Growers Manual

Standard Operating Procudures

Additional Resources:

 South River Federation Oyster Research Project

copy of dsc_0015In an effort to expand our understanding of growing oysters in the South River, Growers are invited to participate in a research project to monitor oyster growth and mortality.   Participants will measure the length of spat, track mortality, and measure dissolved oxygen levels throughout the growing season.  A random, unbiased sample must be used to create the most accurate representation of your entire oyster population.  It is important not to intentionally select shells that exhibit a certain characteristic because that will skew the data.  These measurements must be taken a minimum of once a month excluding the times when the surface water is frozen over.  Data will be recorded on data sheets and submitted to Nancy Merrill at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  You can download the data sheets below or email Jennifer for Word doc. files:

NEW: Simplified Mortality and Growth Data Sheet
Survival/Mortality Data Sheet - PdfGrowth Data Sheet - Pdf



Monitoring oyster spat growth