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EPA announces major success as 'essential' species returns to Chesapeake Bay — here's why it matters

This is just one of several recent wins for the Chesapeake Bay Program.

This is just one of several recent wins for the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Photo Credit: iStock

Oysters are crucial to a bay ecosystem because they filter and clean the water while providing habitats, food, and barrier protection from tides and erosion. 

An EPA program has been working to restore oyster reefs in the Chesapeake Bay and is making incredible progress ahead of its 2025 goal. 

The EPA established a Chesapeake Bay Program through a unique regional partnership involving six states and Washington, D.C. The program supports habitat and climate resilience efforts in the bay to address changing conditions, such as fluctuating sea levels. 

As CoastTV reported, eight of 10 tributaries needing restoration have completed large-scale oyster reef improvements. 

"Oysters, often hailed as essential to the Bay's ecosystem, are once again flourishing, thanks to these efforts," wrote Alyssa Baker in the CoastTV article. 

This is just one of several recent wins for the Chesapeake Bay Program. 

The program restored a 200-acre oyster reef in the York River of Virginia, a significant milestone in the world's largest oyster restoration project. Program leaders also reported that community-wide restoration work resulted in 2 miles of Turtle Creek in Pennsylvania being taken off the impaired streams list. 

This vital work comes amid the destruction of oyster farms due to extreme weather events like Hurricane Irene. However, there is hope that oyster shells can help rebuild destroyed reefs to help oysters come back and restore biodiversity. 

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a nonprofit committed to restoring and protecting the bay, is a key partner in these efforts and a driving force in the 2025 deadline to restore oyster reefs in 10 local tributaries. 

"Oysters are the bedrock of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, long recognized for their ability to provide habitat and improve water quality. But their benefits to communities and the ecosystem extend far beyond that," said the foundation's Maryland executive director, Allison Colden.

"Oysters are key to adapting to climate change, supporting local economies, and cleaning up waterways. You can't overstate their importance to the bay." 

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