Letter: An oyster aquaculture preservation bill
SB 1190 was approved by the Virginia Senate and then tabled by the House of Delegates on Wednesday, Feb 16. This important bill is worthy of all of our support to make sure that what has happened in York County to stop oyster aquaculture cannot happen in the rest of Virginia.
Here is what the bill does:
—Clarifies that aquaculture is a form of agriculture, so that anyone that lives in a zoning district that allows agriculture (raising crops or livestock) can conduct aquaculture (raising oysters, etc.);
—Grants permission for owners of docks that are attached to their waterfront property, already zoned for agriculture, to conduct aquaculture at their dock.
Here is what SB 1190 does not do:
—Allow anyone to build anything on their land;
—Allow processing of seafood; allow sales or purchases to take place on land or docks;
—Allow docks to be modified;
—Allow oyster farms to stink up the neighborhood;
—Allow the oyster farmer to leave oyster scraps in piles on his/her property; or rezone anyone’s property.
Everyone knows the horrific condition of the Bay and our local rivers/creeks. There are four primary solutions: Reduce the flow of untreated sewage going into our waterways; reduce the use of fertilizers on our yards/lands; filter much of the storm water before it goes into our waterways to remove chemicals that are harmful; and, grow more oysters.
A recent study stated that natural oyster reefs are threatened more than wetlands or coral reefs, and recommended banning all harvesting of natural or wild oysters. It further stated that oyster aquaculture is needed to repopulate the oyster, which is especially important since each oyster is capable of filtering up to 50 gallons of seawater each day.
Even the opponents to SB 1190 admit that "oysters are good for the Bay" and they all say that "we support the bay cleanup" … but they just want one more layer of regulation. In my little family oyster farm, we already have seven permits, leases, licenses, or certifications and we are seeking an eighth one. These have all been granted by the Commonwealth of Virginia. The opponents realize that this additional layer of government regulation is going to reduce the number of oysters grown in our waterways. They want to ignore that aquaculture is referred to in the Code of Virginia at least five times where the code clearly states that it is a form of agriculture.
Oyster aquaculture creates green jobs and promotes the raising of a sustainable seafood product that can once again be a world-famous delicacy. What a wonderful win-win-win oyster farming can be! Private farmers raise them at their own economic risk and with their own funds without any government subsidies. Jobs are created. The Bay is cleaned and Virginia can once again become one of the biggest suppliers of oysters to the world.
SB 1190 simply clarifies that oyster agriculture can be done on land and at docks where the land is already zoned to allow agriculture. How could this possibly be harmful?
York County, Va.