What Happened to Chesapeake Oysters?

Harvests of Chesapeake oysters declined throughout the 1900s. Despite limits on harvests and programs to seed oyster beds, the resource never rebounded. Two diseases—MSX and Dermo—continue to decimate the small remaining oyster populations. Most experts agree that a combination of factors—overharvesting, silting, pollution, and disease—contributed to the virtual disappearance of the Chesapeake Bay’s oyster bounty. Without oysters, many watermen’s communities around the bay have also suffered.



Lent by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Afterlife of an Oyster Dredger

When there aren’t enough oysters to keep a skipjack in business, a waterman’s mind can take a creative turn. This canvasback decoy was carved from the mast of the venerable oyster sloop Rebecca T. Ruark, built in 1886. Made in June 2000, it is one of 82 ducks carved by Charles Jobes of Havre de Grace, Maryland, from Rebecca’s mast.