Buy, Cook and Recycle

Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project

The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary is a member of the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force, a coalition of organizations working to revitalize the fledgling oyster population of Delaware Bay. Other key members of the restoration group include: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Rutgers University’s Haskin Shellfish Research Laboratory, Delaware River Basin Commission, Delaware State University’s College of Agriculture and Related Sciences, the Delaware River and Bay Authority, Cumberland Empowerment Zone Corporation, Delaware Bay Section of the Shell Fisheries Council, Delaware Shellfish Advisory Council, and Commercial Township, New Jersey.

During the summer of 2005, the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force initiated a large-scale oyster shell-planting and transplant program that, by 2011, had deposited almost 2.4 million bushels of shell onto existing oyster reefs. These “seed beds” are needed because oyster larvae require a clean, hard surface upon which they can attach, or “recruit.” This effort has yielded a substantial increase in survival among juveniles; this, despite a population decline in areas outside the seed beds.

The success of this project has earned it a 2008 Coastal America Partnership Award, a 2009 gold medal from the Federal Executive Board, and a 2008 Government Award from the Water Resources Association of the Delaware River Basin (PDF files).

Oyster Stats


Year Shell Planted
2005 280,000 bushels
2006 505,500 bushels
2007 681,500 bushels
2008 427,000 bushels
2009 237,000 bushels
2010 93,500 bushels (NJ only)
2011 159,000 bushels


The Partnership for the Delaware Estuary worked with other members of the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Task Force to raise $200,000 for shell planting in 2011.

Once baby oysters, or “larvae,” have attached to clean shell, they can then be transplanted farther north in Delaware Bay. There they stand a better chance of reaching market size thanks to fewer predators. These activities are subsidized, in part, by landing taxes paid by harvesters in both states.

For more information on the Delaware Bay Oyster Restoration Project, please read our brochure and 2008 update (PDF files). For more insight into the history of Delaware Bay oysters, please read PDE’s spring 2005 issue of Estuary News, as well as our oyster fact sheet (PDF files).