Evaluation of Alternative Methodologies to Restore Oysters to the Chesapeake Bay Based on an Assessment of Possible Outcomes

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Jennifer Rehage

Second Advisor

Mark Luckenbach


The decline of the native oyster, Crassostrea virginica, from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay threatens the ecosystem's ecological integrity and the fishery that supports local watermen and the seafood industry. Efforts to restore the oysters have been stymied by disease, over-harvesting, lack of substrate, and poor water quality. In this study I solicited the opinions of experts including groups of scientists in relevant fields, and groups of stakeholders including resource managers, conservation groups, fishermen, seafood industry and watermen in a survey. Participants were asked to evaluate the alternative action plans proposed by the Intent to Draft a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Results indicated that no alternative would meet the EIS goal, but several of the alternatives might increase the oyster population. A combination of alternatives had the best chance of increasing oysters and meeting EIS goals.

Over 50% of the respondents included the following alternatives in the best combination of alternatives to repopulate oysters to the Chesapeake Bay:

  • Aquaculture with native oysters (78%)
  • Expand current restoration plan (74%)
  • Temporary moratorium with compensation (55%)

Alternatives including non-native oysters were selected by 32% or less of all the respondents. The chief concern about native oyster aquaculture was having enough space for off-bottom techniques. There was doubt that the expanded restoration plan would receive enough time and money. The moratorium caused concern that the income and culture ofwatermanwould be lost to the shore. Scores for the moratorium were significantly more favorable among the scientists and unfavorable among the seafood_watermengroups. For all of the favored alternatives above, it was estimated thatrepopulationof the oysters inChesapeake Baywould take 21-51 years.

The outcome of the survey matched the conclusions of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2008. The two studies were independent. The outcome indicates that the use of interviews and surveys of experts and stakeholders may serve as an informational supplement to environmental impact studies when policy-makers consider issues that must be decided before conclusive evidence is available.

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