Commission backs oyster farmers

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
26 April 2006, at 1:00am

VIRGINIA - Virginia Marine Resource Commissioners approved a Gloucester oyster aquaculture petition - along with two others on the Northern Neck - Tuesday. In doing so, the commissioners signaled support for a developing industry, while recognizing that conflicts are imminent. The appeal of farming oysters continues to grow among watermen looking for alternatives to dwindling seafood stocks in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But clashes with waterfront residents whose priorities include more aesthetic and recreational pursuits are expected to increase. To defend against predators including the Cownose Ray, oyster aquaculture operations use large, shallow metal cages to grow oysters submerged in a controlled environment. In many cases, these operations can include hundreds of cages and as many marker buoys located near the shore in areas with highly valued real estate. Commissioner J. Carter Fox said the evolving oyster aquaculture industry needs a process for resolving conflicts, but he said watermen should look to new ways of farming the water. "I don't believe the old methods will work much longer," he said. "Times change and your methods can change too." At least five applicants have requested permission from the commission to lease oyster planting ground in Gloucester of 140 to 250 acres. They join a small number who already farm the waters. Source: Daily Press