Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary


In 2010 the governor unveiled Maryland's new oyster plan, which established large oyster sanctuaries closed to harvest. The goals of Maryland's oyster plan agreed well with President Obama's Executive Order 13508, "Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration," which called for the restoration of oysters in 20 Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025. NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are the federal agencies charged with advancing this goal. Furthermore, the Army Corps Native Oyster Restoration Master Plan calls for larger scale oyster restoration to achieve greater ecosystem benefits.

Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary

Because of the similar oyster restoration goals of the state and federal agencies, the Chesapeake Bay Program's Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team convened a Maryland interagency workgroup consisting of DNR, NOAA, and the Army Corps to plan restoration work in consultation with appropriate partners. Based on water quality, available restorable bottom, protection from harvest, and historical spat set, the Maryland Interagency Workgroup selected Harris Creek, a tributary on the north shore of the Choptank River, as its first tributary for intensive oyster restoration. The draft restoration plan for Harris Creek may be found here.

Harris Creek Location Map

(Click Image to Enlarge)

Existing Conditions

Before restoration of Harris Creek could begin, it was necessary to collect baseline data to determine the pre-restoration state of the oyster population and habitat. Maryland Geological Survey conducted an initial side-scan sonar survey to determine the condition and extent of oyster habitat. NOAA conducted additional ground-truthing and multi-beam sonar surveys to refine the bottom classification. Population surveys funded by NOAA and were conducted by Versar, Inc. and Dr. Ken Paynter and colleagues of the University of Maryland. The Maryland Interagency Workgroup used these baseline habitat and population data to develop the restoration plan for Harris Creek, determining areas that meet restoration goals as defined by the Oyster Metrics Team, areas that need oyster seed, and areas that need both substrate and seed.

Click here to view current Harris Creek water quality monitoring.

Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary
Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary
Existing Conditions Bottom Type
(Click Image to Enlarge)
Existing Conditions Oyster Density
(Click Image to Enlarge)

Potential Oyster Restoration Sites

Potential Oyster Restoration Sites
Potential Oyster Restoration Sites
(Click Image to Enlarge)

Please note that the data used to create this map are preliminary. We are still analyzing data, and obtaining new data; boundaries may change slightly to reflect the most accurate available data and regulatory constraints.


Blue: These areas have some shell already, and some locations have low densities of live oysters. We are primarily interested in adding seed to these areas, but we may

Yellow: These areas are hard bottom, but there are no shell or live oysters here. Oysters may have existed here historically. We are interested in re-constructing reefs here using substrate such as shell, granite, crushed concrete or reef balls, and then planting juvenile oysters on them.

Orange: The Corps of Engineers constructed shell and granite oyster reefs here in 2012, and ORP seeded them with juvenile oysters.

Green: These areas currently meet the minimum restoration goal of having at least 15 live oysters per square meter of bottom. More juvenile oysters may be added to these areas to bring them up to the desired target of 50 oysters per square meter.

Restoration Progress

Click here for larger map.
Map by Oyster Recovery Partnership

  • 1.5 acres of shell reef constructed (DNR)
  • 33 acres seeded (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)
  • 22 acres new reef constructed (Army Corps)
  • 97 acres seeded (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)
  • 34 acres of reef constructed (Army Corps)
  • 29 acres seeded (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)
  • 85 acres of reef constructed (DNR and Army Corps)
  • 65 acres seeded (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)
  • 55. 4 acres of reef constructed (Army Corps)
  • 88.5 acres seeded (Oyster Recovery Partnership, with funding from NOAA and DNR)


The implementation phase of the Harris Creek oyster restoration project is complete. Monitoring is underway to gauge success.

Contacts and Partners

  • Maryland Department of Natural Resources

    Laurinda Serafin
    MD Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Service
    580 Taylor Ave. B-2,
    Annapolis, MD 21401
    410-260-2406 or
  • US Army Corp of Engineers
    Angela Sowers
    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,
    Baltimore District, Planning Division
    Civil Project Development Branch
    Integrated Water Resources Management Specialist
    10 S. Howard Street 
    Rm 11700-E
    Baltimore, MD 21201
  • NOAA
    Stephanie Reynolds Westby
    NOAA Restoration Center,
    Chesapeake Bay
    410 Seven Ave, Suite 107A,
    Annapolis, MD 21403
    410-295-3153 or
UMCES Oyster Recovery Partnership