Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO)

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Join The Team Of Oyster Growers On The Severn River

In 2008, Maryland created the Marylanders Grow Oysters (MGO) program as a means to enlist everyday citizens in the push to repopulate our rivers and the Chesapeake Bay with the Eastern Oyster — nature’s powerhouse water treatment system.


The MGO program was needed to find a way to reintroduce the oyster into the Severn River. The river was once a thriving fishery and we had healthy oyster reefs from the mouth of the Severn all the way into Round Bay and nearly on the doorstep of Severna Park.

This was fortuitously documented in the 1911 Yates Oyster Survey. The pale green areas on the chart were once active oyster reefs.

Unfortunately, the fishery is today off limits to harvesting due to health reasons.

The state started closing oyster reefs in 1912 due to sewage problems in the Severna Park area. Since then, the combination of human activity, development, pollution and diseases  degraded water quality to the point where there were no more live oysters.

But as the environmental regulations slowly improved water quality, the Maryland legislature adopted the Marylanders Grow Oysters program to reintroduce oysters into the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

SRA was an early adopter of this program and today we have more than 400 voluntary oyster growers helping restore the oyster in the Severn.

Why oysters? They’re nature’s way of cleaning a waterway! With mature oysters capable of filtering up to 50 gallons of water a day, the Severn River Association joined with the Department of Natural Resources and the Oyster Recovery Partnership to create an army of oyster growers on the Severn River.

Our goal is to restore oyster reefs in the Severn River and plant millions, perhaps billions, of oysters in our river and let the oysters go to work.

Each June, our volunteer oyster growers plant the oyster spat they’ve been raising all winter on the MGO reef at the foot of the Rt. 50 Bridge.

The MGO reef is marked by four orange “Oyster” buoys. They form a square to indicate where your oysters should be planted.

One day, we’ll have enough oysters to filter the entire river in a month, then a week and maybe one day, every three days — like oysters used to do.

How To Become An Oyster Grower?

It’s easy. Just hang oyster cages full of spat-on-shell from a pier.

The MGO program is easy. Our partners produce the oyster spat-on-shell every year at the Horn Point Hatchery in Cambridge, Md.

To volunteer, please email:

ORP provides the oysters, cages and delivery. Then SRA helps distribute the oyster spat and cages to our team of volunteers who hang their cages from their piers during the winter hatching season (September-May).

Then each year in early June our growers “plant” their year-old oysters at our SRA oyster reef at the foot of The Rt. 50 Bridge.

All that is required to be a grower is able to:
1) hang your oyster cages off a private or community pier deep enough to so that the spat are under water even during the super low tides following winter storms, and
2) visit your oysters once a month during the growing season (September-May) and tend to the cages by shaking them up a bit to knock off the debris to ensure a free flow of current can bring food to your spat.

It’s easy. This quick video explains all there is to it: click here.

In early June, growers make arrangements to plant their baby oysters on the SRA oyster reef by the Rt. 50 Bridge. It’s marked with three orange-flagged buoys. This is what the oyster planting event looks like:


Then during the summer, it’s time to clean your cages. Check out this video for a simple cleaning technique, click here.

To volunteer, please email:


Severn River Association, Oyster Recovery Partnership, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, University of Maryland’s Horn Point Hatchery and more than 400 volunteer oyster growers.


Program Goal

To raise millions, perhaps billions, of year-old oysters and plant them in the river every year  so the oysters can perform their natural and historic function — to filter the river and help create a resilient reef habitat that sustains oysters, fish and other wildlife.

Currently, through the efforts of SRA’s volunteer oyster growers, the Severn River is home to over 2,000 MGO oyster cages. We’d like to see that number break 3,000 and then hit 5,000!

Program Outcome

  • Enhance conditions for fishing, swimming, crabbing, and other recreational activities.
  • Raise public awareness about the land-river connection.
  • Educate the public about ways to improve the river ecosystem
  • Improve and increase marine life (finfish and shellfish) habitat.

With your support, we can restore one of nature’s hardest working species and let them do what they do best – filter the water so that the Severn and its inhabitants can thrive now and into the future!

To volunteer, please email: