Download Full Text (1.8 MB)

Document Type

Book Chapter


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


Mark W. Luckenbach, Roger Mann, James A. Wesson

Publication Date


Book Title

Oyster reef habitat restoration : a synopsis and synthesis of approaches ; proceedings from the symposium, Williamsburg, Virginia, April 1995


VIMS Press


Gloucester Point, VA


The eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin), can live any place in coastal marine and estuarine waters of the North American east coast offering suitable setting and survival opportunities. It occurs singly or in small clumps scattered widely but thrives best in colonial aggregations which, like those of tropical corals, are truly reefs. The massive self-renewing oyster reefs ("whole banks and beds") reported by early Chesapeake observers have yielded much. Without readily accessible oyster reefs the first English colonists of Jamestown might have starved. Without them the rich oyster industries of later years could never have developed.But oyster reefs benefitted the oysters that built and maintained them as well as the humans using them.

The oyster reefs of the Chesapeake region, including those on Seaside, developed during some 7,000-6,000 years of Bay evolution during the current (Holocene) Epoch. Until about 200 years ago reef oyster populations were able to maintain themselves and their reef habitats and withstand the inroads of biological enemies, other natural hazards and increasing harvests. By the late 1800s, Chesapeake public market oyster harvests had peaked and total market harvests and the oyster populations which provided them were in decline. more ...

Chesapeake Oyster Reefs, Their Importance, Destruction and Guidelines for Restoring Them