Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Journal Of Shellfish Research





First Page


Last Page



Restoration of the oyster Crassostrea virginica resource to the Chesapeake Bay is a widely supported goal. This manuscript explores the questions of why, how, and in what time frame this should be attempted. Restoration goals based simply on support of a commercial fishery fail to address the role of the oyster as a cornerstone species within the Chesapeake Bay and should only be considered in the context of a long-term sustainable fishery exploitation. The argument is proffered that a restored resource sustaining a fishery at the historical harvest level is unrealistic, because: (1) harvest probably exceeded biological production for much of the recorded history of exploitation; and (2) maximum production, a desired end for fishery support, occurs at approximately half the maximum (virgin, unexploited) biomass, and, thus, can only be achieved with disruption of the virgin complex community structure. Thus, the direct harvest economic value of a fishery based on a restored resource will not reach historical levels if there is an accompanying goal of long-term community development that is self-sustaining in the absence of restoration effort. The role of the oyster as a cornerstone organism and the pivotal link in benthic-pelagic coupling is examined in the context of current and projected watershed management problems, including agricultural and urban development with associated nutrient and sediment erosion issues, in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed. Restoration efforts to date have focused on rebuilding three-dimensional reef structures, often with subsequent oyster broodstock enhancement, in predominantly small estuaries with retentive circulation to provide demonstration of increased resultant recruitment. Such examples are used to increase public awareness of the success of restoration processes and increase long-term participation in such programs by schools, nonprofit and civic organizations, and commercial and recreational fishing groups.


Oysters; Crassostrea Virginica; Chesapeake Bay; Reefs; Restoration; Watershed; Management; Benthic-Pelagic Coupling