The oyster planting vessel Poppa Francis laden with eight million oysters to add to the Herring Bay sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Oyster Recovery Partnership

First 8 Million Oysters Planted, Funded by Ever Forward Damage Funds

The oyster sanctuary reefs in Herring Bay are eight million oysters richer, thanks to the mitigation funds paid out for the grounding of container ship Ever Forward in 2022.

Evergreen Marine Corp. was required to pay $676,000 to mitigate the damage done to oyster grounds outside the Patapsco River when the 1,095-foot-long ship Ever Forward became lodged deep in the Bay bed. The grounding and the refloating attempts impacted 11.5 acres of a natural oyster bar.

Dredges worked for weeks to dislodge the Ever Forward from the Bay bottom. Image: Cheryl Costello

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced in January how it would spend the funds, with the first oyster planting set to take place at the Herring Bay reef, just south of Annapolis.

Last week, the Oyster Recovery Partnership placed the first eight million juvenile oysters, raised from spat-on-shell, at the request of DNR. The juvenile oysters came from the (UMCES) Horn Point Lab in Cambridge. They were loaded aboard the Poppa Francis, an oyster planting vessel, then taken across the Bay to the Herring Bay reef.

Eventually, 60 million oysters will be planted on sanctuary reefs. Up to 90 million oysters will be planted on public oyster reefs open to commercial harvest in Anne Arundel County.

“The plantings funded by the ship grounding settlement will help bolster the state’s oyster population, which has been increasing in part due to strong spat sets and ongoing restoration,” said DNR Secretary Josh Kurtz.

Kurtz says that this project, which will add oysters to sanctuaries and the public oyster fishery, too, is a good example of how plantings can benefit both the ecosystem and the economy.

The Evergreen Marine settlement is expected to fund up to 150 million spat on shell, to be planted across 41 acres of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, waters. All told, the restoration effort using Ever Forward damage funds is expected to span two years.