Eastern Bay Regional Restoration

​​Eastern Bay, Cox Creek, Prospect Bay Complex (Cabin Creek, Prospect Bay, Mill Hill), Wye River and Miles River sanctuaries 

The Eastern Bay region is located in Maryland’s mid-bay area. It includes seven oyster sanctuaries, twelve active aquaculture leases (January 2022) and three NOAA Code harvest areas (039- Eastern Bay, 060- Miles River and 099- Wye River). NOAA Code 039 has 12,269 acres of historic oyster bottom not within a sanctuary and 17,187 acres designated as Public Shellfishery Area (PSFA). NOAA Code 060 has 3,089 acres of historic oyster bottom not within a sanctuary and 5,458 acres designated as a PSFA. All of NOAA Code 099 area is within the Wye River Sanctuary.

The Eastern Bay Region is a historically important region for oyster management in Maryland. It was an important seed area during the historic repletion program. In 1997, it had a record spatfall, however, shortly after, disease hit the region during the 4-year drought of 1999-2002 and devastated the oyster population, which has since struggled to recover. Large areas of the Eastern Bay region are limited to diving and hand tong only for harvest. There are 2 relatively small areas open to power dredging. No patent tonging or sail dredging is allowed.   

Legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2019 tasked the Oyster Advisory Commission (OAC) with developing a set of consensus management actions for oyster recovery to achieve the targets identified in the oyster stock assessment with the goal of increasing oyster abundance. The OAC was also charged with developing a package of consensus recommendations through a facilitated consensus solutions process based on a 75% majority agreement level for each recommendation. One of the consensus recommendations reached was for the department to focus management actions in the Eastern Bay Region. Their recommendation being:

Over the next 25 years, a combination of replenishment, restoration and aquaculture activities should be collectively planned and undertaken in Eastern Bay, with an equal amount of funding for spat planting in sanctuaries ($1M annually adjusted for inflation) and for spat and shell planting on fishery bars ($1M annually adjusted for inflation) in addition to current replenishment and restoration activities. The effectiveness of this option should be evaluated every 5 years.

Another consensus recommendation reached was for the department to:

Improve organization and cooperation among groups and integrate projects across the 3 sectors (fishery, aquaculture, restoration).

The department was already operating in this multiuse mode and supports this recommendation.    

This website will be updated as the plans for action are developed.

 

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Eastern Bay

The Eastern Bay Sanctuary is located along the southern shore of Eastern Bay, a medium 2 salinity region (Zone 2) with an average salinity between 12 and 14 ppt and lies within NOAA Codes 027 and 039. The sanctuary was created in 2010 and encompasses 4,521 acres of which 939 acres (21%) are historic oyster bottom (as charted in the Yates Oyster Survey from 1906 to 1912 plus its amendments). There are 7 historic oyster bars that have a portion of their area within the sanctuary. Eastern Bay sanctuary received a restoration planting in 2020 of 16 million hatchery spat-on-shell as part of DNR’s Eastern Bay, multiuse plan.

 


Cox Creek

The Cox Creek Sanctuary is located in a tributary of Eastern Bay, a low salinity region (Zone 1) with an average salinity between 5 and 11 ppt and lies within NOAA Code 039. The sanctuary was created in 2010 and encompasses 2,112 acres of which 939 acres (45%) are historic oyster bottom (as charted in the Yates Oyster Survey from 1906 to 1912 plus its amendments). There are nine historic oyster bars within the sanctuary, one of which (Ringgold Middleground) is located only partially within the sanctuary. The only replenishment or restoration plantings to have occurred since 2006 are Marylanders Grow Oysters. Marylanders Grow Oysters plantings occurred between 2011 and 2015 on Jones Hole bar.

 


Prospect Bay Complex- Cabin Creek, Prospect Bay and Mill Hill

Prospect Bay- Cabin Creek

The Prospect Bay Cabin Creek Sanctuary is located in Eastern Bay, a low salinity region (Zone 1) with an average salinity between 5 and 11 ppt and lies within NOAA Code 039. The sanctuary was created in 2005 for restoration work by the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, which was designated by the state as a site for testing and developing comprehensive restoration techniques that might have bay-wide application for enhancing oyster stocks. The sanctuary encompasses 298 acres of which 128 (43%) is historic oyster bottom (as charted in the Yates Oyster Survey from 1906 to 1912 plus its amendments). There is one historic oyster bar (Cabin Creek bar) within the sanctuary. The sanctuary received restoration plantings between 2006 and 2012 where 6.5 million hatchery spat-on-shell were planted and 160 reef balls were deployed.


Prospect Bay

The Prospect Bay Sanctuary is located in Eastern Bay, a medium salinity region (Zone 2) with an average salinity between 12 and 14 ppt and lies within NOAA Code 039. The sanctuary was created in 2010 and encompasses 1,478 acres of which 1,061 (72%) is historic oyster bottom (as charted in the Yates Oyster Survey from 1906 to 1912 plus its amendments). There are 3 historic oyster bars within the sanctuary. The area has received one restoration planting in 2011 where eight million hatchery spat-on-shell were planted on 21 acres.


Mill Hill

The Mill Hill Sanctuary is located in Eastern Bay, a medium salinity region (Zone 2) with an average salinity between 12 and 14 ppt and lies within NOAA Code 039. The sanctuary was created in 2000 to protect a US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) project examining mounded habitat and alternative materials for oysters. The sanctuary encompasses 295 acres of which 188 (64%) is historic oyster bottom (as charted in the Yates Oyster Survey from 1906 to 1912 plus its amendments). There are 2 historic oyster bars within the sanctuary although neither bar has the majority of its area within the sanctuary (Mill Hill 31% and Saw Mill Creek 9%). From 2006 to 2020, approximately 82 million hatchery spat-on-shell were planted for restoration purposes. In 2021, The Nature Conservancy planted approximately 237,113 aquaculture oysters in this sanctuary of which 61% were diploid as part of a nationwide program to help aquaculture farmers impacted by Covid 19.

 
 


Wye River

The Wye River Sanctuary is located in Eastern Bay, a medium salinity region (Zone 2) with an average salinity between 12 and 14 ppt and lies within NOAA Code 099. The sanctuary was created in 2010 and encompasses 3,510 acres of which 1,100 (31%) is historic oyster bottom (as charted in the Yates Oyster Survey from 1906 to 1912 plus its amendments). There are 23 historic oyster bars within the sanctuary. Marylanders Grow Oysters, a public outreach program, has planted oysters annually in the sanctuary since 2010 on Wye River Middleground bar.

 


Miles River

The Miles River Sanctuary is located in the upstream section of the Miles River, a tributary of Eastern Bay that lies within NOAA Code 060. The sanctuary is in a medium salinity region (Zone 2) with an average salinity between 12 and 14 ppt. The sanctuary was created in 2010 and encompasses 3,449 acres of which 373 (11%) is historic oyster bottom (as charted in the Yates Oyster Survey from 1906 to 1912 plus its amendments). There are 5 historic oyster bars within the sanctuary. After the sanctuary was established, approximately 12 million hatchery spat-on-shell were planted for restoration purposes. Marylanders Grow Oysters have planted annually in the Miles River since 2010 on Long Point bar Northwest of the channel marker.