Exploring the Bay's Beloved Bivalve

and its history, culture, and future.


Winner of the 2015 Maryland Historical Society's Marion Brewington Prize for Maritime History


William S. Dudley, Ph.D., author of Maritime Maryland:

"I enjoyed reading Kate Livie’s Chesapeake Oysters: The Bay’s Foundation and Future for its lively prose, insightful anecdotes, historical context, and solid research.  The author is especially perceptive in linking earlier oyster controversies to discussions going on today among watermen, scientists, and politicians. If you want to understand the state of oyster research, aquaculture, and the views of Chesapeake watermen and others on these issues, this is the book to read."

Crassostrea virginica, the eastern oyster.

These humble bivalves are the living bones of the Chesapeake and the ecological and historical lifeblood of the region. When colonists first sailed these impossibly abundant shores, they described massive shoals of foot-long oysters. But the bottomless appetite of the Gilded Age and great fleets of skipjacks took their toll. Disease, environmental pressures and overconsumption decimated the population by the end of the twentieth century. While Virginia turned to bottom-leasing, passionate debate continues in Maryland among scientists and oystermen whether aquaculture or wild harvesting is the better way forward. Today, boutique oyster farming in the Bay is sustainably meeting the culinary demand of a new generation of connoisseurs- and expanding our minds and palates about how delicious Chesapeake oysters can be.

With careful research and interviews with experts, author Kate Livie presents this dynamic story and a glimpse of what the future may hold.

Read an excerpt of "Chesapeake Oysters"