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VMRC approves shellfish cage farm

by Larry Chowning

By a 4-2-2 vote on September 25, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) approved a 700 floating shellfish cage farm in Milford Haven off Gwynn’s Island for Kevin Wade of Island Seafood. Wade is also owner of J&W Seafood in Deltaville.

The proposal was opposed by Gwynn’s Island residents most who were members of Save The Haven LLC, a group formed in opposition to the project. Wade’s project was supported by some commercial watermen and others in the oyster aquaculture business. 

The opponents arguments stemmed around the public trust doctrine of the Code of Virginia, which mandates that VMRC work “to protect and safeguard the public right to the use and enjoyment of the subaqueous lands of the Commonwealth.”

Proponents argued that if these types of oyster aquaculture ventures are discouraged in state waters, other surrounding states will encourage it and it will hurt existing and future Virginia oyster markets.

The approval of Wade’s permit came on the heels of a May 2018 decision by VMRC that turned down a proposed “basket growing” aquaculture project for Rappahannock Oyster Co. (ROC) near Locklies Creek in Topping. ROC was requesting the use of 12 acres of water surface and bottom to suspend 34,560 of SEAPA oyster baskets on 8,828 of composite poles. VMRC voted 5-2-1 against this proposal.

Wade, however, was requesting the use of 700 floating cages in a 400 by 600 foot area (5.5 acres) over his existing oyster planting grounds.

posted 10.03.2018

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