Photo: Maryland DNR

Weigh in on Large-Scale Eastern Shore Oyster Sanctuary

Now is the time to voice your opinion about the large-scale oyster sanctuary planned for the Manokin River on Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is asking for feedback on potential sites for substrate and seed restoration of oyster habitat from now through March 9.

This DNR July 2020 map shows the potential restoration reefs in the Manokin River Sanctuary. Click here for an interactive version.

The Manokin River was selected as Maryland’s fifth and final large-scale tributary for oyster restoration, to fulfill its commitments made in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed agreement. Between this year and 2024, 441 acres of reef are set to be restored.

Projects have already begun in Harris Creek, Little Choptank, Tred Avon, and Upper St. Mary’s rivers. DNR’s restoration plan for the Manokin River is found here​.

Restoration advocates like the Oyster Recovery Partnership champion the Manokin sanctuary, which will be the largest the state has ever undertaken. But some groups of watermen strongly opposed the state’s decision to classify the Manokin as an oyster sanctuary, putting acres of productive oystering grounds off-limits to harvesting.

At a public meeting Tuesday night, DNR outlined the potential reef construction locations, including six in the middle of the mouth of the river. If you missed the meeting, DNR posted a video presentation explaining the plans for the Manokin.

 Some restoration sites will be “seed only”, where spat-on-shell grown in hatcheries will be planted at existing remnant reefs. Others will be “substrate and seed”, where the reef will be expanded by building substrate before planting spat-on-shell. 3–6″ stones will be used for substrate in water depths of 7–20′, with priority given to areas of greater depth.

DNR hopes to begin planting seed only restoration sites and building substrate this summer.

To submit public comments, email them to [email protected] through March 9.

-Meg Walburn Viviano