Did You Know? Chesapeake Bay Declared a ‘National Treasure’ – Executive Order 13508

Thanks to Tim Sughrue, Congressional Seafood, for pointing out this news that he sent out to his customers in early March … FSM saw Tim last night at the 10th Annual Blue Jeans Ball for the Capital Area Food Bank. We’ve never seen him more optimistic about the future of the Bay … read on to find out why.

On May 12 2009, President Barack Obama signed executive order 13508, declaring the entire Chesapeake Bay estuary a “National Treasure”  

“By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America and in furtherance of the purposes of the Clean Water Act of 1972, as amended (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.), and other laws, and to protect and restore the health, heritage, natural resources, and social and economic value of the Nation’s largest estuarine ecosystem and the natural sustainability of its watershed, it is hereby ordered as follows“ 

This order will prove to be a turning point in the ecological restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.  The reason it will be different than previous attempts to restore the Bay is that it targets the restoration of oyster “reefs” in the Chesapeake. By doing this you are managing the ecosystem as a whole, not one species at a time, as was previously done.

On February 14, 2013, just two weeks ago, the US Army Corp of Engineers, in partnership with the state of Maryland, along with the Commonwealth of Virginia, and their shared partners, has finalized the “Native Oyster Master Restoration Plan”. The master plan outlines the Corps’ strategy for large scale oyster reef restoration throughout the Chesapeake and its tributaries. They are devoting two billion dollars to restore native oyster habitat and populations in 20 tributaries by 2025.

Oyster reefs create vibrant living communities and are the “cornerstone” in rebuilding the health of the Chesapeake Bay environment.  If we had enough shellfish in the Bay to adequately filter the water, it would start a chain reaction of positive environmental effects that would benefit every living organism in the Bay. Sunlight would penetrate to the bottom in three to five feet of water causing the seeds of submerged aquatic vegetation (which can lay dormant on the bottom of the Bay up to 40 years) to germinate. SAV provides escape cover for juvenile fish and crabs. SAV, through photosynthesis, puts oxygen back in to the water column and consumes CO2. SAV calms the water and helps prevent shoreline erosion, reducing sedimentation. These are just a few of the many benefits of a robust oyster population.

The Army Corps will restore oyster reefs with native wild Chesapeake (crassostrea virginica) oysters.  Oyster aquaculture will also play a significant role in the restoration effort. The oyster aquaculture industry in the Maryland waters of the Chesapeake is a fledgling industry. There are only 13 growers currently operating, mostly because the oyster laws were changed for the first time in 100 years only recently, making it easier for people to aquaculture oysters in Maryland. We plan on featuring these growers in a forum this summer in DC where you can meet and greet and hear their stories.  As you can see, serving local oysters on your menu either live or shucked is good for business and great for the environment.

source: Congressional Seafood

About the Author

Michael Birchenall is Editor and Publisher of Foodservice Monthly, a regional trade publication covering the foodservice industry of the Mid-Atlantic (DE, DC, MD, VA). Foodservice Monthly has been recognized as the Restaurant Association of Maryland's Allied Industry Member of the Year and by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington as the Joan Hisaoka Associate Member of the Year.

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