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Virginia CZM Program 2010 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



VIMS Center for Coastal Resources Management (CCRM)

Project Title:

Seaside SAMP: Geo-spatial Assessment of Activities Occurring on Privately Leased State-owned Bottom

Project Description as Proposed:

As Virginia engages in discussions that could result in a change in policy associated with public Baylor Ground, inevitably the current policy surrounding leasing state-owned bottom for commercial shell fishing will also be reviewed.  Opening Baylor ground for commercial activity to enhance available bottom for aquaculture is spurred by the notion that bottom resources are limited.  A major question that remains unanswered is how much of the current state-owned bottom retained in private leases for the purpose of shell fishing is actually being utilized?   

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) regulates subaqueous bottom and issues private leases.  In the last several years they have instituted a “self-reporting” process whereby waterman submit harvest catch and information on a monthly basis for each lease.  The process is manually driven and the database that retains the information has no connection to the geo-spatial data associated with the lease boundaries.  Given that, VMRC cannot, at this time, report general geo-spatial statistics associated with regular use of privately leased state-owned bottom.  Questions such as “How much area of the bottom held within private leases is actually being fished” cannot be easily answered.  Nor can they report quickly on the spatial distribution of the harvest with respect to location or size of the leases.  These seem like simple questions, but until the harvest activities database is linked with the geo-spatial boundary database the information is not readily available.   

The scope of work proposed for this project is to link the two databases to answer some basic questions regarding the status of private lease activity and harvests in Virginia.  We will report on statistics for the Chesapeake Bay and the seaside of the Eastern Shore.  A series of tables and maps will be generated to identify active use areas, harvest statistics, and species distributions in the catch for both areas. Data from the last two complete years of entry for the relational and geo-spatial data available from VMRC will be used.   This will provide some opportunity to look at gross trends.  Data use agreements between CCRM and VMRC are already in place.  CCRM will comply with privacy constraints in the data use, discovery and reporting.  It is understood that the data is a reflection of the diligence with which waterman subscribe to self-reporting.  Failure to participate in self-reporting can result in an under-estimation of harvests and activities.  As we begin to develop a more robust tracking and monitoring program, incentives to be more pro-active in reporting regularly and honestly may arise.  This project begins to touch on some of the immediate needs and questions pertaining to private lease activities that are relevant to the Special Area Management Planning actions on the seaside.  The project also sets the stage for expansion of a project to develop a robust monitoring platform for Virginia. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Marcia Berman, 804.684.7188; 

Project Status:

6/1/11 - 12/31/11; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

Seaside SAMP: Geo-spatial Assessment of Activities Occurring on Privately Lease State-Owned Bottom in Virginia - A Demonstration Project (pdf) 

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The objectives of this project were to test the feasibility and value of linking the relational database generated under the Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s (VMRC) Mandatory Self-Reporting Program with a geospatial database maintaining the physical surveyed boundaries of the subaqueous private leases in Virginia.  The activities proposed included a run of several simple queries to test if this data union was possible and demonstrate the value of bringing these two information resources together to address some of the most basic management questions on the issue of aquaculture and use of state-owned subaqueous bottom.  Through this union, we proposed to identify active use areas, inactive areas, harvest statistics reported for active areas, and species distribution for the catch.   The last two complete years of data entry from 2009 and 2010 was used in this study.

After some manipulations, the union of these two datasets concluded for the first time that in 2009 only about 12% of the private leases reported harvests.  This number was slightly higher in 2010; approximately 17%.   The analysis also revealed where these leases were located and could be linked to the lease holder.  For the purpose of this demonstration report, information reporting is confined to watersheds or bay segments and not to individual leases in respect of privacy laws.  The merger also was able to illustrate and calculate the distribution of the harvests geographically and quickly determine which areas of the bay were most productive and what types of fishing mechanisms are being used to harvest the grounds.

While it is understood that there are a number of factors that contribute to the low reporting numbers, this first attempt to examine the success of the Self-Reporting regulation will help determine how to improve on the system in the future and what information may provide the most useful data for future policy development.



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 email:

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

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

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