Virginia CZM Program: 2017 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

VA CZM logoProject Task:



Virginia Institute of Marine Science 

Project Title:

Expanding Virginia’s oyster industry while minimizing user conflict 

Project Description:

The waters and shorelines of the Virginia Chesapeake Bay present a prime example of multiple uses by constituents with widely varying commercial, recreational and cultural interests. Historically, commercial fishing, especially of oysters, dominated the activity throughout the tidal areas of the Bay. For decades, communities developed along shorelines to take advantage of productive public and private (leased) oyster grounds, and to harvest other economically important species. With the introduction of oyster diseases in the late 1950s, oyster harvests began to collapse and continued to decline through several consecutive decades. Nearshore properties that had been associated with commercial fishing were abandoned and sold to other user groups. The numbers of new residents increased along the shore and many diverse activities replaced commercial fishing. Concurrently, efforts to increase oyster populations and oyster production on both public and private grounds has remained a baywide focus of federal, state and local entities, and over the past decade there has been a substantial improvement in oyster production on public grounds, but most especially on private grounds. The most rapid expansion has been in hatchery-based production of cage-cultured oysters on private grounds. Conflicts have arisen between new user groups residing along the bay shore, and a growing industry that works primarily in nearshore waters. Additionally, as the shoreline has been developed, there are very limited access points along the waterfront where commercial activity can occur. The focus of the proposed effort is to characterize the oyster industry as it exists today, examine the regulatory and economic framework that resulted in its recent growth, identify issues that will likely impact future expansion, and suggest pathways for supporting growth of the oyster industry into the future. Specifically, we will address (1) current and future productivity of public oyster grounds given their dependency on limited (both in quantity and future availability) shell resources for habitat and replenishment; (2) current and future productivity of private lease grounds including estimates of unproductive area; and (3) current and future productivity of intensive, hatchery dependent oyster aquaculture including limits to and opportunities for future expansion. All will be examined in context of current regulatory and statutory impediments to multiple uses by other commercial, recreational and cultural/economic interests. We propose a 3-year effort with production of a review of current industry status (year 1), short term opportunities and challenges in the 5-10 year time frame (year 2), and longer-term (post 2025) opportunities and challenges (year 3). These are outlined below as sequential deliverables. 

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Roger Mann, 804.684.7360;  

Project Status:

 1/1/2018 - 9/30/2018; Project Open

Final Product:


Project Summary:


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 to



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

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