By Audrey Swanenberg
“It’s 7: 18 a.m. and we’re fishing!” Joe Rieger, Deputy Director
of Restoration of the Elizabeth River Project, announced
as he deployed the first trawl of the day into the Lafayette
River in Norfolk, Virginia. Along with CBF’s Senior Regional
Ecosystem Scientist Chris Moore, who captained CBF’s skiff
Bay Oyster, we spent the morning sampling different areas
of the Lafayette, identifying, counting, and measuring the
critters we caught. Begun in 2009, these trawl surveys have
documented over 25 species in and around the river’s oyster
reefs, including seahorses, American eel, black sea bass, blue
crab, brown shrimp, croaker, spot, striped bass, summer
flounder, white perch, and more.
Oyster Reefs Bring Diversity
This diversity of fish is supported by the acres of restored
oyster reef habitat that have been built in the past decade.
Beginning in 2012, many partners, led by CBF and the
Elizabeth River Project, came together to implement large-scale reef construction in the Lafayette River. CBF has
participated by planting 60 million baby oysters and placing
1,500 oyster reef balls on Lafayette oyster reefs since 2010.
Restoration Pays Off
After a decade of work, the Lafayette River is now the first
Virginia tributary in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to meet
science-based goals for the full restoration of habitat needed
to bring back the native oyster.
None of this would be possible without the support of the
dozens of partners, donors, and oyster gardeners who
have worked with CBF and the Elizabeth River Project.
A Small Watershed Grant, administered by the National Fish
and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), in cooperation with the
Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Chesapeake
Bay Program, provided the catalyst federal funding that
allowed the non-profits to launch a community-wide plan for
the Lafayette. NFWF also provided funding for the final stage
of the Lafayette oyster restoration.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
in partnership with Restore America’s Estuaries, has also
provided substantial additional support to construct reef
acreage and plant millions of oysters. In 2014, the state
recommended the removal of the Lafayette River from the
On Monday, October 8, 2018, partners and local
residents came together to officially declare
Virginia’s Lafayette River restored for oysters.
Restoring the Bay with
AUDREY SWANENBERG/CBF STAFF