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Virginia CZM Program: 2006 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science Center for Coastal Resources Management

Project Title:

Identification of Management Strategies for Promoting Shellfish Aquaculture in Virginia 

Project Description as Proposed:

Virginia is experiencing rapid growth in the shellfish aquaculture industry.  Virginia sales of cultivated clams and oysters have risen from $7 million in 1995 to $27.5 million in 2005. Ecological benefits of shellfish farming are also being documented: the filtering of algae and sediment from coastal waters, the provision of substrate (clam netting and oyster shell) that provides foraging habitat for shorebirds and finfish; and the water clarification provided by filter feeders that creates better growing conditions for submerged aquatic vegetation.

Physical factors in Virginia’s shallow creeks and waterways are conducive to successful shellfish farming operations. However, limitations are present in the form of water quality concerns, user conflicts and availability of subtidal bottoms.  Reduction or elimination of any combination of limitations creates the possibility for expansion of  farming operations.  Also, Virginia is in the process of a change in the management of aquaculture operations that may create an opportunity to implement new management approaches. Given this, what options make the most sense for Virginia?

Promotion of the shellfish aquaculture industry necessitates the development and implementation of effective management approaches to balance the interests in the Public Trust with the private benefits.  The opportunity to provide for a regulatory friendly environment with regard to the promotion of shellfish aquaculture necessitates a review of the existing regulatory structure in Virginia and effective management approaches of other states or nations.  This project will build on work completed through an FY 2002 CZM grant to VIMS (Task 94) which generated 6 alternative management strategies:

1) Establishment of aquaculture priority zones

2) Incorporation of shellfish aquaculture as a class of waters under DEQ water quality standards

3) Designation of appropriate shellfish aquaculture areas as “exceptional waters” also known as Tier 3 waters

4) Local government zoning and planning changes

5) Implementation of buffers on the land and in the water

6) Creation of Aquaculture Priority Zones modeled after Scenic Rivers Act.

While these management alternatives focused more on maintaining water quality for shellfish cultivation, this new project will focus more on strategies that maximize available subaqueous bottom for shellfish cultivation.

Economic analyses of the management options identified pursuant to this proposal will be conducted, as proposed, by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (VT).  The management analysis proposed herein, will continue to be refined collaboratively with VT during the course of their proposed study in order to identify new management approaches to optimize public and private benefits from aquaculture. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Pam Mason; (804) 684-7158;

Project Status:

7/1/2007 - 12/31/2007; Project Completed

Final Product Received:

Identification of Management Strategies for Promoting Aquaculture in Virginia (PDF)

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s Center for Coastal Resource Management produced a report summarizing some potential management options for promoting shellfish aquaculture in Virginia.  The report was based upon a review of approaches to promote aquaculture undertaken in other jurisdictions, as well as literature and discussions specific to Virginia. Issues specific to adequate space for growing, water quality protection for shellfish, simple economics and nutrient trading are discussed.  Space considerations include questions regarding the existing private lease program and public grounds set aside as public oyster grounds, known as “Baylor Grounds.”  The concept of enterprise zones to frame the issue of managing for minimum water quality, explicitly addressing user conflicts and improving permitting efficiencies is discussed. 

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

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


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

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