This project, with support from the Virginia Oyster Reef Heritage Foundation (VORHF), provides a running history of both live oyster populations and shell habitat status at any target site. Its upward and/or downward trends can be observed with respect to restoration/shell planting activity. This is a first order evaluation of positive or lack of effect of any management or restorative action. The target can also be compared against a known sustainable reef with respect to population and shell habitat status (of which there are identified reefs in our archive maintained by both natural recruitment and/or active replenishment). Data define either the magnitude of additional direct restorative effort (addition of shell and/or oysters) that would be required to develop self-sustaining status, or the long-term requirement for increased natural recruitment and survival that would be required to again, reach a self sustaining status. A real cost, that is dollars, can be assigned to these restorative requirements because they are true quantitative estimators with defined biological and time horizons.
The economic principles of Management Strategy Evaluation can be employed to optimize future activity at the chosen location – even if the evaluation determines that no investment would be an optimal strategy where attainment of self sustaining populations in unlikely. This is, in effect, a proactive management “calculator” with units of oysters, shell and dollars to estimate population biology and shell addition/loss rates for a sustained population by either management of current resources or after future restorative action. Such a coherent tool is currently unavailable to guide restoration within the Chesapeake Bay – proceeding without one is wasteful.