Since 1939, a succession of Maryland state agencies has conducted annual dredge-based surveys of oyster bars. These assessments have provided biologists and managers with information on oyster spatfall intensity, observed mortality, and more recently on parasitic infection status in Maryland's Chesapeake Bay. The long-term nature of the data set is a unique and valuable aspect of the survey that gives a historical perspective and allows the discernment of trends in the oyster population. Monitored sites have included natural oyster bars, seed production and planting areas, dredged and fresh shell plantings, and sanctuaries. Since this survey began, several changes and additions have been made to allow the development of structured indices and statistical frameworks while preserving the continuity of the long-term data set. In 1975, 53 sites and their alternates, referred to as the historical "Key Bar" set, were fixed to form the basis of an annual spatfall intensity index. These sites were selected to provide both adequate geographic coverage and continuity with data going back to 1939. An oyster parasite diagnosis component was added in 1958, and in 1990 a 43-bar subset (Disease Bar set) was established for obtaining standardized parasite prevalence and intensity data. Thirty-one of the Disease Bars are among the 53 spatfall index oyster bars (Key Bars).
Annual Reports have been written since the mid-1970s. Reports from 2002 to present are currently available online. Fall Survey Reports