RICHMOND—Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler has received the final report of the “Clam and Oyster Aquaculture Work Group,” which developed consensus-based recommendations to resolve conflicts among the shellfish industry, local governments, boaters, waterfront property owners, and the conservation community. The report describes the work group’s deliberations since August to identify and understand competing uses of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia rivers, and seaside waters and develop legislative and regulatory consensus solutions.
“I applaud the members of this work group for their dedication to this important matter,” said Governor Northam. “Through their guidance, my administration can take steps to better support farming oysters and clams while also improving access for recreational boaters, rebuilding our underwater grasses, and respecting the rights of waterfront property owners.”
The work group’s recommendations include clarifying and accentuating the authority of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission to consider the Public Trust Doctrine in granting, denying, or renewing clam and oyster leases. Additionally, the work group recommended a more structured and transparent approach for utilization of clam and oyster leases, increasing lease fees, and calling on the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to study aquaculture best management practices.
“I would also like to thank the members of the work group who spent many hours of their very valuable time assisting in providing creative ideas to solve the conflict issues that confront not only the Commission but the citizens of the Commonwealth,” said Commissioner Steven G. Bowman, Virginia Marine Resources Commission. “I believe an artifact of these discussions is that it brought industry, property owners, and regulators closer with a better understanding of what we all confront on a day to day basis in our working world. This effort has been truly beneficial to me as Commissioner charged with implementing this program.”
“The work group has provided my office with a roadmap for resolving user conflicts. Our work is not complete,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “In the coming months, I will call upon the Commission to engage stakeholders and the public in the recommended actions. I look forward to partnering with the General Assembly on legislation to implement the work group recommendations and reduce user conflicts.”
The work group was comprised of leaders from the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates, as well as diverse representatives from the shellfish industry, local governments, waterfront property owners, and the conservation community.