Social Media Icons DEQ Facebook DEQ Twitter DEQ Instagram DEQ LinkedIn

Virginia CZM Program: 2014 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Project Title:

Seaside Restoration

Project Description as Proposed:

The Seaside Bays of Virginia’s Eastern Shore serve as critical nursery areas for numerous finfish, both predator and prey, and essential habitat for shellfish, coastal sharks and sea turtles. Despite this pristine status the seaside bays suffered an ecosystem state change in the last century: the loss of the seagrass Zostera in the 1930’s due to a wasting disease and concurrent hurricanes, resulting in the loss of critical ecosystem services for numerous avian and marine species, most especially the bay scallop, Argopecten irradians. Prior to loss of seagrass beds, the region supported a large population of and valuable fishery for bay scallops.  Localized extinction of the bay scallop followed the loss of the seagrass beds.

Fifteen years (1999-2013) of Zostera marina seed additions conducted in these coastal bay systems where Z. marina had not been reported since 1933 has resulted in a rapid rate of Z. marina expansion beyond the initially seeded plots. This effort has been funded from a consortium of grants but notably Virginia’s CZM Program followed by the NOAA ARRA program and the VA Recreational License Fund and in partnership with TNC and UVA’s LTER program. From 1999 through 2013, approximately 56.8 million viable seeds were added to 471 individual plots ranging in size from 0.02 to 5 acres totaling 410 acres in four coastal bays. Subsequent expansion from these initial plots to approximately 4640 acres of bay bottom populated with Z. marina through 2012 is attributable to seed export from the original plots and subsequent generations of seedlings originating from those exports. Water quality data collected over seven years by spatially-intensive sampling as well as fixed-location continuous monitoring document conditions in all four bays that are adequate to support Z. marina growth. In particular, median chlorophyll levels for the entire sampling period were between 5 and 6 µg/l for each of the bays, and median turbidity levels, while exhibiting seasonal differences, were between 8 and 9 NTU. The recovery of Z. marina initiated in this coastal bay system may be unique in seagrass recovery studies because of how the recovery was initiated (seeds rather than adult plants), how rapidly it occurred (years rather than decades), and the explicit demonstration of how one meadow modulated water clarity and altered sediments as it developed and expanded.

In addition to the seagrass restoration work, the NOAA ARRA funds supported the initial attempts at bay scallop restoration.  Early results from the bay scallop work yielded important results on the requirements for large scale bay scallop restoration. This CZM FY 2014 project will build on the FY 2011, FY2012 and FY2013 CZM support for ongoing seagrass and bays scallop restoration work from 2011-2013.
The seagrass restoration component in FY2014 will follow a series of distinct tasks that encompass: 1. Collection of seeds, 2. Processing and storage of seed material; 3. Distribution of seeds in large one acre plots; 4. Monitoring of seagrass success and expansion from ground level assessments of plant cover and aerial photography; 5. Monitoring of water quality in the restored areas; and 6. faunal and fish surveys conducted concurrently with the bay scallop effort.

Specific tasks for scallop restoration include: 1. Collection of additional scallop broodstock from NC to avoid in-breeding in the VA lines; 2. Spawning and rearing of larvae in a hatchery during both the spring and fall; 3. Transfering100’s of thousands of scallops to a nursery facility to grow through the juvenile stage; 4. Planting 10’s of thousands of adult scallops in the seagrass beds; 5. Conducting a quantitative assessment of the wild scallop population in the restored grass beds; and 6. Maintaining broodstocks for the next year’s spawn.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Bob Orth, 804.684.7392; and Mark Luckenbach, 804.684.7108; luck@vims.educ  

Project Status:

1/1/15 - 3/31/16; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Eelgrass and Bay Scallop Restoration in the Seaside Bays of Virginia Final Report (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

Objectives of funding provided by the Virginia Coastal Programs FY 2014 funds were to: 1. Plant eelgrass using seeds to continue the recovery of the eelgrass beds into the Virginia coastal bays region; 2. Monitor water quality conditions to assess changes that may be associated with the eelgrass recovery; 3. Assess eelgrass bed growth and expansion from aerial monitoring; and 4. Continue bay scallop restoration efforts.

In 2015, seeds were broadcast into 42 one acre (0.4-ha) plots in Spider Crab Bay at a density of 150,000 seeds per acre for a total of 6.3 million seeds. Through 2015, 68.3 million seeds have been broadcast into 202 ha (499 acres). In 2015 we mapped a total of 145 ha (358.15 acres) in Hog Island Bay, 233 ha (575.51 acres) in Spider Crab Bay, 588 ha (1,452.36 acres) in Cobb Bay, and 1541 ha (3,806.27 acres) in South Bay for a total of 2508 ha total (6,195.76 acres) which is an increase of 629.5 ha (1,554.87 acres) from our last complete mapping effort of 2012, an increase of 33.5%.

Water quality monitoring of the four restoration areas in 2015 indicates that, overall, water quality remained high for eelgrass growth and restoration in the entire coastal lagoon areas studied. Growing season, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, and temperature were very comparable across all the sites and generally within the ranges necessary for growth and spreading of eelgrass.  By themselves they should not be limiting seagrass growth. Both turbidity and phytoplankton concentrations in 2015 showed higher ranges at Hog island Bay where restoration success has been less. This may be due in part to local resuspension of sediment and benthic microalgae, both of which may be related to the lack of seagrass bed cover. The overall lower concentrations of chlorophyll and turbidity since 2012 are positive for eelgrass populations. Because of the positive feedbacks between restored seagrass bed size and abundance and water quality which we have observed here and in other coastal systems, this, now three year overall improvement, is encouraging. 

Previous reports have detailed our restoration strategy for bay scallops and the early success that we have had in (a) developing and maintaining a Virginia brood stock line of bay scallops, (b) spawning, maintaining and out planting scallops in the grass bed, and (c) establishing a wild population in the grass bed. Recent anecdotal evidence of bay scallops from elsewhere in the Virginia seaside coastal bays, clearly demonstrate that bay scallops have spread beyond the areas in which we have stocked. Our quantitative survey of adults in 2015, which expanded its survey to two additional bays and found bay scallops in these bays, continues our proof of concept that enhancement of the bay scallop population can be achieved. However, though we are very encouraged by the successes to date, in our best informed judgment the standing stock of wild bay scallops has not reached a point at which we expect that it will be self-sustaining.  We will need to achieve an order of magnitude higher population level for a self-sustaining population.  Thus, as we move forward in this project we will be constantly seeking ways to improve our restoration strategy and its success.

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

footer divider
footer divider
footer divider
Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

Some resources on this website require Adobe Reader and Flash Player, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel. If you wish to receive this content in an accessible format pursuant to Section 508 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended (29 U.S.C. ยง 794 (d)), please call 800-592-5482. In addition, this website includes hyperlinks to websites neither controlled nor sponsored by DEQ or the Commonwealth of Virginia. Links may open in a new window. If you wish to receive content from a website which is neither controlled nor sponsored by DEQ or the Commonwealth, please contact the host of that website directly.

Privacy Statement | Terms Of Use | WAI Compliance | Contact Us