If aquaculture is just agriculture with water, then a new opportunity from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service could help reconstitute the ongoing effort to restore oyster beds on private shellfish grounds in Virginia’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.
In 2011, NRCS embarked on a journey with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science to help bring back native oysters lost to over-harvesting, disease and degraded habitats. Beds that have lain dormant for decades are being returned to service to support spat-on-shell production and a growing population of the bivalves, fish and other wildlife.
In the past three years, the agency provided $776,284 in financial assistance through a Regional Conservation Partnership Program project to support tidal bottom restoration on leased beds. This new approach to aquaculture yielded 40 contracts with Virginia growers (11 in Fiscal Year 2020).
When that project ended, the commitment to Virg...
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