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NOAA Funding Helps the (Sea)Grass Grow

Since 2001, NOAA has dedicated nearly $6 million in funding for marine restoration for Virginia’s seaside bays.  In 2009, we contributed more than $2 million in Recovery Act funding to help partners work with local watermen. They are restoring native oysters, seagrass, and bay scallops to Virginia’s seaside bays from Wachapreague inlet to the Chesapeake Bay.

So far, we have restored nearly twenty acres of native oyster reefs at 12 different sites, and planted 100 acres of seagrass. We also helped re-introduced about 100,000 juvenile bay scallops to bays where they have been extinct for 75 years.

These improvements are protecting water quality for both wild and aquaculture fisheries, and stimulating the ecotourism industry.

One of the primary goals of restoration is to use enough resources to capitalize on nature’s ability to heal itself.  This is clearly happening on the seaside of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, where 250 acres of eelgrass have now spread to 5,000 acres.  Investments in habitat restoration projects like these will help protect the long-term economy of Virginia by stabilizing the natural resources that many industries depend on, from fishing to aquaculture to tourism.  In fact, program managers estimate that within 10 years, bay scallops reintroduced into the area could grow to support a lucrative recreational fishery.

Aerial photo showing scars in the eelgrass meadow at Outer Manchester Harbor mooring field
Volunteer collecting eelgras seeds