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 spread almost 4 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. Host shells provide 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 Grow Oysters Program, who care for square cages of oysters that they hang from 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 than brand-new spat.

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 helps inform how the Federation targets new oyster growers in the River.  Full Screen Map HERE.

 thumbprint oyster small



New Restoration Techniques:

The Federation is planning a living shoreline that incorporates oyster reef balls to curb erosion and provide natural filtration in Glebe Bay. When approved and funded, the Turnbull Estates living shoreline project will be among the first of its kind 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 into a living shoreline project. See her project here.


Marylanders Grows Oyster Program:

The South River Federation, in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and Oyster Rcovery Partnership, provides the opportunity for any waterfront property owner to participate first hand in oyster restoration in our River.  Those with access to community, private, or commercial piers can grow thousands of young oysters in cages suspended from their piers. The goal of the program is to protect young oysters during their vulnerable first year of life, so they may be planted in our oyster sanctuary where the oysters enrich the ecosystem and filter the water. By fostering these young oysters, our citizen partners generate an abundance of fish and other aquatic life and create live bottom, populated by oysters and other creatures, in sanctuary area that is closed to harvest.  

Registration Deadline for the 2018-2019 oyster growing season is July 30th.

Email your South RIVERKEEPER Jesse Iliff (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. Review the oyster husbandry handbook provided 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 for pickup.

Oyster Growing Manual and Standard Operating Procedures

Each Oyster Grower that attends a workshop will receive a copy of our Oyster Growers' Handbook.  The Handbook includes the Standard Operating Procedures, maps highlighting harvested and protected sanctuary areas 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 can be recorded on data sheets provided in the Handbook and submitted to Jesse Iliff 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 Jesse for Word doc. files:

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



Monitoring oyster spat growth