Virginia Features World’s Most Successful Eelgrass Restoration Project

The Takeaway: Project partners have grown this estuary resource from zero to 9,000 acres, thanks to continuous support from the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program.

The largest and most successful eelgrass restoration project on the planet is now growing on the very spot where, for five decades, eelgrass had been rooted up and destroyed by disease and successive hurricanes. Located on the Atlantic side of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the project partners’ innovative methods—with continuous support from Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program—have grown this estuary resource from zero acres to 9,000 acres in 18 years, uncovering habitat restoration findings relevant elsewhere in the U.S. and globally.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science invented a new approach for harvesting and distributing eelgrass seeds. The team located prime areas for scattering seeds, and in a relatively short time began seeing tremendous results.

The Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program also worked with partners to reintroduce bay scallops into the seagrass beds. Seagrass beds not only provide critical habitat for commercially important juvenile fish and shellfish but also improve coastal water quality by absorbing nutrients and trapping fine sediments. (2017/Updated 2020)

More Information: Eelgrass Restoration Efforts

Partners: Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Virginia Marine Resources Commission, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers