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Virginia CZM Program: 2018 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:VA Coastal Zone Management Program logo



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Project Title:

Expanding Virginia's Oyster Industry While Minimizing User Conflict

Project Description:

The waters and shorelines of Virginia’s coast 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 have remained a 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 Chesapeake 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.  The tasks proposed are to be accomplished over three years.  In the first year, fiscal year 2017, we are assessing 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.   A spatial analysis evaluating both public and private grounds for usage will be completed, and potential for expansion of the aquaculture industry given current shoreline uses, hatchery production, and regulatory limitations will be examined.

In Year 2 (2018-2019), we propose to project the short-term (5-10 year) sustainability of the public oyster fishery and the likely expansion of the oyster aquaculture production inclusive of mechanisms for transitioning waterman from wild harvest fishery to aquaculture.  To the extent that these data may be available and sufficiently analyzed in Year 2, the stakeholder engagement may begin before Year 2 ends.

As with Year 1, the project will focus strictly on the Chesapeake Bay shoreline.  The Seaside of the Eastern Shore will not be addressed for the following reasons: 1) no significant use conflicts exist on the seaside; 2) the seaside is too shallow to consider alternative practices which may utilize the water column at depth; 3) the stock assessment data which provides the information necessary to predict current and future limitations of shell resources is not available for the seaside.  However, in year 3 as recommendations are developed, some may be applicable to the Seaside.

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Roger Mann, 804.684.7360,

Project Status:

10/1/18 - 9/30/19; 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 email:

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



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

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