In Virginia and other coastal areas around the United States, oyster populations have declined significantly because of pressure from pollution, habitat destruction, overharvesting, and disease. As a result, communities have lost out on the benefits of oyster reefs, including filtering pollutants from water, protecting shorelines from storm damage, providing habitat for other sea life, and supporting jobs that rely on a healthy ecosystem.
In recent years, Virginia has made a concerted effort to restore its native oysters, creating a plan to restore oyster reefs in five Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025 as part of its commitments to the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. After a decade of investment and progress—and with hundreds of acres of reefs restored so far—the commonwealth is a key player in the world’s largest oyster restoration project.
Virginia’s strong commitment to oyster restoration and its long record of effective collaborations with federal, state, and local partners were recently bolstered by Governor Ralph Northam (D)’s December 2019 recommendation that the General Assembly appropriate both a one-time capital infusion and ongoing funding for oyster reefs.
The Pew Charitable Trusts has joined the effort to advance oyster restoration in Virginia and supports continued funding. By staying the course, Virginia can build on its leadership in effective oyster restoration in the U.S. and around the world.