Shellfish growers can now apply for Inland Bays leases
Maddy Lauria, Cape Gazette
March 30, 2017
A statewide lottery is now open for oyster growers hoping to harvest shellfish in the Inland Bays.
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control posted a public notice March 29 (http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/Lists/Public%20Notices/DispForm.aspx?ID=3685& Source=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dnrec.delaware.gov%2FLists%2FPublic%2520Notices%2FAllItems.aspxContentTypeId=0x010034FD6D348B0CF04392485E93FC15AB3A) saying anyone interested in the lottery for the first leasable sites must apply by 4 p.m., Wednesday, April 26.
In this first round of public leasing for aquaculture sites in the Inland Bays, growers may pick which acres they would like to harvest in Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman bays. The public lottery will be held Tuesday, May 2, the notice states.
The state's program (http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Fisheries/Pages/ShellfishAquaculture.aspx) has set aside 209 leasable acres in Rehoboth Bay, 91 acres in Indian River Bay and 43 acres in Little Assawoman Bay. Growers will be able to harvest American eastern oysters in each of the bays and hard clams in Little Assawoman Bay.
After the first public lottery, acreage will be leased on a first-come, first-served basis. Delaware has been waiting for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' 2017 nationwide permit and regional conditions (http://www.nap.usace.army.mil/Portals/39/docs/regulatory/publicnotic/2017_DE_Reg%20Cond_Final.pdf) for shellfish aquaculture in the mid-Atlantic, including Delaware's Inland Bays.
“It's great that we're finally at the point where they're accepting lottery applications for the people that want to do it,” said fisherman and future grower E.J. Chalabala. But there are still a lot of questions about the program, he said, including where and how growers can get insurance and bonds, where they can get oyster seed and what the state's policy will be on disease tolerance.
“What we all want now is some kind of schedule,” he said. “The take-home message is there's still a lot of questions out there for potential aquaculture growers.”
Chalabala also raised concerns with the 20-foot navigation corridors dividing the sites, and a requirement in the regulation that calls for PVC pipe markers on the corner of each leased acre.
“The regulations, we feel, could be different,” he said. “There's still a lot of stuff that needs to be looked at and possibly modified to make the industry prosper.”
Regardless, he said, he'll be putting in an application to be included in the lottery. Chalabala and other shellfish farmers will be able to lease one to five acres in Rehoboth and Indian River bays, and an additional five acres in Little Assawoman Bay, according to the state's regulations.
About a week before the agency posted its public notice about the lottery application opening, the state Division of Fish and Wildlife unveiled its interactive online map (http://dnrec.maps.arcgis.com/apps/PublicInformation/index.html?appid=50d387d56725401e920001e46fa73f27) for shellfish aquaculture lease locations. The map highlights acres included in Delaware's Statewide Activity Approval (http://www.capegazette.com /node/101387) for shellfish aquaculture in the Inland Bays.
Once acres are leased, the online map will reflect which areas are being farmed and which are available for lease.
Editor’s note: This is a developing story.