Little Choptank Restoration
Large-scale restoration efforts began in 2014 in Little Choptank sanctuary. The initial implementation phase of the restoration project was completed in 2020, with a total of 357.8 acres of reef restored. Monitoring is underway to gauge success.
The restoration plan for Little Choptank may be found
are quantitative evaluation criteria used to determine the restoration success of an oyster reef and tributary.
- A successfully restored reef should have:
- A ‘minimum threshold’ of 15 oysters and 15 grams dry weight per square meter covering at least 30 percent of the target restoration area at six years post restoration;
- A ‘target’ of 50 oysters and 50 grams dry weight per square meter covering at least 30 percent of the target restoration area at six years post restoration;
- Two or more oyster year classes present; and
- Stable or increasing spatial extent, reef height, and shell budget.
- A successfully restored tributary is one where:
- 50 to 100 percent of the currently restorable oyster habitat (CROH) has oyster reefs that meet the reef-level metrics above. Restorable habitat is defined as area that, at a minimum, has appropriate bottom quality and water quality for oyster survival AND
- 8 to 16 percent of historic habitat (Yates Bars), and preferably more, has oyster reefs that meet the reef-level metrics above
Three-year and six-year monitoring efforts are used to assess the oyster metrics for each reef.
From the 2019 Monitoring Report: ‘Two different types of gear were used to collect samples, depending on reef substrate type. Divers were used to collect samples from reefs with substrate materials that were not amenable to patent tong sampling (stone and fossil shell substrate reefs). Patent tongs were used to collect samples from all other reef types (seed only, mixed-shell base, reference, and premet reefs) because it is more cost efficient than using divers. Previous field comparisons on natural oyster reefs revealed no difference in sampling efficiency between oyster densities estimated using divers and those estimated using patent tongs. A similar field comparison on restored reefs showed that densities estimated using patent tongs resulted in statistically significantly smaller numbers of oysters than those estimated using divers. Monitoring results in this report show oyster densities and biomass relative to the established Oyster Metrics benchmarks (e.g., minimum threshold oyster density of 15 oysters per m2 to be considered successful). Because two different gear types were used for sampling, and results of research on the relative sampling efficiencies of those gears vary, it may not be appropriate to use data in this report to compare relative efficacy among reef treatment type.’
So far in the Little Choptank, three-year monitoring of reefs (2017-2021) shows 98% have met the minimum threshold for oyster density and biomass. Of those that have had six-year monitoring (2020-2021), 100% met the minimum threshold success criteria for oyster density and biomass. Oyster monitoring reports can be found here:
Little Choptank Restoration Reefs
Below is an interactive map with the restoration reefs in the Little Choptank sanctuary. The legend and layers are located in the upper right-hand corner. You can click on a reef to see more information. The information was last updated in March 2023.
Restoration sites are identified as ‘seed only’ restoration (hatchery-produced spat-on-shell added to existing remnant reefs) or ‘substrate + seed’ restoration (adding reef-building substrate to the reef footprint, followed by planting with hatchery-produced spat-on-shell) or ‘premet’ (sites that already meet the Oyster Metrics target oyster density (50+ oysters per m2) and oyster biomass (50+ grams per m2) and did not receive initial restoration).