The Orvis Commitment
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Save the oysters. Save the bay.
It’s that sulfur-rich smell of the marsh, the grainy texture of the mud, and the almond-tasting roots of the black needlerush. It’s the periwinkle snails climbing marsh grasses and the great egrets flying overhead, returning to their nests each evening before sunset. It’s the quiet murmur of a sole waterman’s boat crossing flat-calm water at sunrise. It’s wing beats and birdcalls and bald eagle sightings. It’s getting stranded at high tide, and exploring a wild, undiscovered landscapes at low tide. It’s the scream of the sika deer and the woo-hoo of the tundra swan. It’s pound nets and patent tongs and crab pots. It’s seven-layer cakes, soft-shell crabs, and corn pudding. It’s shucking your very first oyster, and picking crabmeat with Old Bay-covered fingers. It’s bagging your first duck and digging up your best arrowhead. It’s striped bass, Atlantic sturgeon, and perch. It’s skipjacks and tugboats. It’s your home, your watershed, or your place to escape.
Underwater it’s flat. But it didn’t used to be. It’s also polluted, losing habitat, getting warmer, and under stress. The Chesapeake Bay needs help—the bay needs its oyster reefs back.
In an uncontrolled harvesting frenzy during the turn of the 20th century, we managed to flatten the once three-dimensional oyster reefs of the Chesapeake Bay. In doing so, we destroyed a most valuable resource, wrecking habitat for a robust eco-system, and devastating the ideal growing conditions for the native oyster. And we broke our most effective filtration system.
“Oysters are the mid-Atlantic coral reefs,” Tommy Leggett explains. The retired commercial waterman turned oyster-farmer manages the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Virginia Oyster Restoration Center while running a full-time aquaculture business. “Oysters are one of the most important species of the bay. We have got to take care of this resource.”
Like coral, oysters filter feed. In fact, 1 oyster filters 50 gallons of water each day. This means that before the 1880s, it took only three days for the oysters to filter the entire 19-trillion gallons of water in the Chesapeake Bay. Today, it takes the struggling oyster population over a year. This is a problem. Because the bay, now more than ever, needs filtering.
Excess sediment, excess nutrients, and other pollutants serve as a major threat to the overall health of the bay. Oyster reefs and filter-feeding oysters improve the water quality, help us avoid devastating dead zones and fish kills, and serve as habitat for crabs, fish, and plants and other animals. As Bill Goldsborough, Director of Fisheries Program at CBF, states: “the oyster and oyster reef serve a key function in making the system work. They are the plumbing and the kidneys of the watershed.”
This part is simple: you donate, and we match. It’s one of the easiest ways to become a good steward of this vital resource.
Your donation will support CBF’s Oyster Restoration Programs in Maryland and Virginia by funding the construction and implementation of reef balls (check out the video to your right!).
Did we mention that this project also helps enhance fish habitat? Oyster reefs are prime fishing grounds for rockfish, spot, croaker, perch, and many other species… just in case there are any anglers out there.
How Reef Balls Are Made
2 – Set Oyster Spat on Reef Balls:
Once built, the reef balls will be cured and some set with oyster spat – juvenile oysters. CBF’s Maryland Oyster Restoration Center (ORC)is equipped with four 3,000 gallon oyster setting tanks and a custom-built oyster restoration vessel, the Patricia Campbell. CBF’s Virginia ORC is equipped with six 800-gallon oyster setting tanks and a custom-built, oyster restoration vessel the Chesapeake Gold. Both vessels are rigged with a crane capable of moving the reef balls in and out of setting tanks and on and off the boat deck into the Chesapeake Bay. CBF utilizes its setting tanks to set oyster spat on the reef balls by loading the reef balls into the tanks, which are filled with Bay water. The water is corrected for salinity and temperature, and hatchery-produced oyster larvae are added from the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Hatchery. Volunteers are involved in the oyster setting process by releasing the larvae into the setting tanks, collecting salinity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature data on the tanks. After approximately two weeks, the larvae have set and become established on the reef balls as juvenile oysters.
3 – Transplant Reef Balls:
Reef balls are removed from the tanks using the cranes on the Patricia Campbell and Chesapeake Gold with help from volunteers. And then the reef balls are transported and planted onto sites within the Chesapeake Bay watershed using the cranes. Reef balls have proven to be extremely effective when planted with spat-on-shell in oyster sanctuaries, as they provide immediate three-dimensional reef habitat and are a critical poaching deterrent.
4 – Create oyster reefs:
Oysters grow on the reef balls, creating three-dimensional habitat for fish, crabs, and other Bay critters.
The Orvis Company is partnering with its customers to help Chesapeake Bay Foundation in its efforts to restore a healthy oyster population in the Chesapeake. Orvis will match every donation dollar for dollar up to $30,000 for a total contribution of $60,000.
To help, send your check to: