Save Our Assawoman
Delaware's aquaculture program was undertaken to help clean up the bays and to encourage job creation and economic growth, all aspirations that have yet to be proven. Large-scale commercial fishing will only degrade this precious resource through visual and environmental pollution. The program also stands to produce economic losses—business, tourism, taxes, and real estate alike—that could more than offset any hoped-for gains.
Stage One (Years 1–3)
Begin only with a pilot program:
Postpone all leasing in Little Assawoman Bay. Select a less affected and uncontested area of the Inland Bays, such as Rehoboth Bay or the IR-A SADA of Indian River Bay
Use test plots in this area to evaluate results, such as
- shellfish viability and health
- effectiveness of the shellfish in filtering the waters
- economic returns
- employment created
Create an advisory panel of “experienced stakeholders,” as recommended by the Center for the Inland Bays. This is one public suggestion to which DNREC did not object, adding only that such a group should “reflect a broad spectrum of the affected interests.” Property and business owners on Little Assawoman Bay are one such group of directly affected stakeholders and should be represented on any such panel.
Share with the panel and the public cost-benefit analyses of the aquaculture program, particularly of its impact on nearby residences, recreational businesses, and jobs.
Make public scientific studies on the realistic amount of nutrient pollution that shellfish are likely to cleanse and results of water sampling to ensure that the bay water is clean enough to produce healthful shellfish
Stage Two (Year 4+)
Slowly expand the program as conditions permit:
Ensure that the leasable area in Little Assawoman Bay, given its smaller size, remains less than or no more than the percentage used in the other two bays
Move plots away from recreational, residential, and commercial areas, and all piers. Avoid interfering with adjacent properties’ riparian rights and the private wetlands ownership by Seatowne and Maisons sur Mer
Correct other navigational conflicts the leases will impose. Among them are
- the danger of inexperienced recreational users having to navigate in and around leased plots and above cages or be pushed into hazardous powerboat channels
- the possibility that Coastal Kayakʼs sailing rental program and its other watersports rentals will be endangered, taking tourism and jobs with them
- water too shallow for work boats, whose size and number should be limited
- crowded boat launch points sought after by recreational and commercial users alike
Reduce significantly the number and size of markers and other fishing clutter, such as attached signage and floating gear
Restrict cages to the bottom-level type and ban floating cages so that no cage is visible at low tide
Set reasonable hours for work on the plots, so that harvesting of shellfish and maintenance of cages are restricted to from sunrise to sunset or less
Facilitate and monitor leaseholders in safely storing and transporting their catches and consider establishing an organic system to ensure healthy shellfish
Provide assurance that any damage to residential properties caused by commercial shellfishing equipment in the leased areas will be quickly and appropriately compensated
Amend the regulations to control malodorous operations, providing for the leaseholder to be fined or the lease to be terminated
Release regular reports to the public presenting factors for evaluating the program, such as
- number and type of leases
- residency of harvesters
- number of shellfish harvested
- water quality
- health of the shellfish
- jobs created
- sales and lease income
One More ...
Avoid harm to shore visitors who rent through Coastal Kayak
The location of the plots will create serious hazards for customers, who are mostly beginner or novice paddlers, especially paddleboarders. Paddleboards are challenging to maneuver, so they will not be able to navigate through and around the aquaculture equipment in the water. If a paddleboard, which has a 10-inch underwater fin, strikes something, the paddler will be thrown off and likely land on top of whatever was hit.
A sailboat can sail only about 45 degrees into the wind. On an east wind, the boats would have to sail directly through the shellfish plots to make it back to the beach. A collision with underwater equipment would destroy the boats as well as increase the likelihood of visitors getting injured.
Water access is another area of concern. There are only three launch spots on Little Assawoman Bay for commercial craft: one on the canal off Kent Avenue, one at the Assawoman Recreation Area on Route One north of The Narrows, and one at Mulberry Landing in the Assawoman Wildlife Refuge. The first two are are extremely crowded with recreational boaters during the summer. The Assawoman Wildlife Refuge is closed to commercial operations without special permission from the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Coastal Kayak's site across from the state park beach thus is a vital resource for shore visitors who want to enjoy watersports.