Monday, June 23, 2014

The Mystery of Oyster Plots--How Can I Grow My Own Oysters and Whose Oysters are Those?

One of the most frequent questions we get in the office is can I grow and eat my own oysters, and who do those oysters out in the water belong to?

First and foremost, while water quality continues to improve in the Lynnhaven River, there is still only 42% that meets the standard for shellfish harvest.  This means that 1) It is never safe to randomly eat oysters from the water, but also 2) Most all of the oyster leases in the Lynnhaven are actively leased, even if the water quality is not yet up to par. It is considered poaching to take oysters from either someone else's lease, or from restoration reefs. Poaching is illegal.

Below is an updated map of what areas of the River are harvestable (everywhere not red, though the green areas are "conditional"). The full report is available here.

There are currently 5 aquaculture oyster growers operating off the Lynnhaven River:

If you are interested in seeing what areas are currently leased (and who is leasing them), you can open the interactive version of the below map here
Sites owned by others that are available for sale can be viewed here. If you are a homeowner with shoreline property that is not already leased to someone else, you can apply to have your shoreline surveyed and set up as oyster grounds. An application for oyster leasing ground can be found here.

All other forms can be found here.

Per VMRC (

Oyster industry participants will pay an annual resource user fee.

This is required under a bill, House Bill 1400, which was passed unanimously in the 2013 Virginia General Assembly Session at the unanimous request of an 11-member industry panel that represented all facets of the industry.  The Panel's report can be found here.

The revenue collected from these annual user fees will be used for the Oyster Replenishment Program, as required by the new law. The industry panel that recommended the new law recognized the importance of oyster replenishment to the health of the entire oyster industry and considered the user fees to be an industry investment in its future.

The Oyster Replenishment Program provides many services for the industry. Oyster replenishment on public oyster grounds involves the spreading of oyster shells on state-owned water bottoms to provide habitat so naturally occurring larvae can attach to the shells during spawning and form new adult oysters that will reach market size in roughly three years.

The program also provides training and support for the growing oyster aquaculture industry, and monitors oyster populations throughout the Chesapeake Bay, its tributaries and the coastal bays of the Eastern Shore.

Every $1 spent on oyster replenishment yields $7 in economic benefits in the form of larger harvests, and increased jobs for oyster shuckers and oyster packing houses.

The bill establishes the following annual user fee schedule:

• Hand harvesters on public oyster grounds will pay a user fee of $50 a year if they only harvest by hand.

• Non-hand harvesting oyster gear users on public oyster grounds will pay a user fee of $300 a year. Only one gear user fee will be paid, regardless of how many different types of licensed oyster gear are used.

• Any commercial oyster aquaculture operation taking oysters from riparian, fee-simple or privately leased ground will pay a user fee of $50 a year (the oyster aquaculture product owner permittee Is responsible for the $50 user fee for private ground aquaculture operations that includes harvest). 

• Harvesters who work on both public and private ground will pay both the aquaculture and gear (or hand) harvest user fees each year.

• Oyster shucking and packing houses will pay a user fee ranging from $500 and $4,000 a year, depending on the size of their operation.

• Oyster buyers will pay a user fee of $100 for a single truck or location, and will pay $300 for buyers with multiple trucks or locations. Also, new oyster buyer licenses will be required. They are in addition to the long-issued seafood buyer licenses.

These user fees apply to anyone who harvests, attempts to harvest, or who participates in the harvest of oysters for commercial purposes, whether the gear license is in their name or not.

As always, all harvests must be reported to the agency.

For further information, contact VMRC- Jim Wesson (; 757-247-2121) or Kathy Leonard (; 757-247-2120) or our Restoration Coordinator, Meredith Malone, at
 Posted by Trista Imrich, Pearl Homes Coordinator, LRNow

1 comment:

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