Connect the Drops

Restoring Natural Filters

Oyster reefs are the foundation of healthy bays and estuaries around the world. They buffer our coasts from waves and storms and help clean water by filtering sediment and algae and absorbing nitrogen. They also provide nurseries for other aquatic life, like fish and crabs, to grow.

Intense oyster harvesting, pollution, disease and degraded habitat have combined to make oyster reefs the most threatened marine habitat on Earth. We’re working with more than 100 public and private partners throughout the United States to reverse this decline and restore native oyster reefs in waters from the Gulf Coast to the Chesapeake Bay - and beyond.


An aggressive and concerted effort between The Nature Conservancy, other non-profit organizations, state, federal and other partners is focused on restoring oyster reefs in ten Chesapeake Bay tributaries by 2025.

By restoring and repopulating large oyster reefs in these key parts of the Bay, we hope to reach a tipping point where oyster populations become self-sustaining, and expand their numbers and the benefits they and their reefs provide.

In Maryland, the oyster restoration effort in Harris Creek is the largest on the planet. Since 2011, more than 300 acres of reefs have been rebuilt and seeded with over 2 billion oysters. These reefs are providing new homes for fish and crabs, and creating cleaner water.

Similar efforts are underway in Virginia’s Piankatank River.  Two sanctuary reefs, totaling 25 acres, have been constructed, part of a project aimed at bolstering oyster stocks throughout the river. 

The sanctuary reefs are situated in a part of the river that will provide optimal oyster larvae distribution through the river, increasing the chances the larvae will produce oysters far beyond the sanctuary's boundaries.

Public and private oyster grounds will benefit from the increased oyster production from the sanctuaries.  These reefs build on a network of reefs established in the late 1990s by multiple private, state and federal partners, including The Nature Conservancy.

Construction of up to 50 acres of new oyster sanctuary reef is planned to help reach restoration goals for the Piankatank in 2016. Large-scale restoration efforts are most likely to ensure a self-sustaining population of oysters that can overcome disease and other environmental threats.

The Nature Conservancy’s pragmatic, science-based programs and partnerships help keep water clean and accessible, here and around the world. Connect the drops between clean water, The Nature Conservancy and you. Visit