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New oyster hatchery coming to UD Lewes campus

Oyster Farm in Inland Bays
Ed Hale
Oyster Farm in Inland Bays

The first phase of a new oyster hatchery is underway in Lewes.

Delaware’s commercial fishing and aquaculture industry has demonstrated a need for a raw oyster seawater facility.

And a $200,000 grant from the State of Delaware is helping create an oyster hatchery/laboratory that will boost natural production of the Eastern Oyster.

Ed Hale is a marine advisory specialist and an assistant professor with the University of Delaware’s Sea Grant Program in Lewes.

“There’s a group of us that have essentially been trying to really develop what would be a shellfish hatchery in the State of Delaware," Hale said. "So this is an effort that I’ve been working on with a colleague of mine - Dennis McIntosh at Delaware State University - as well as a couple other folks. We’re just trying to determine the feasibility of how to do this and how to execute it properly.”

Hale says within five years the hatchery could produce between 50- and 75-million eyed oyster larvae to fuel oyster restoration efforts for private aquaculture in the Delaware Bay, “I think this project is of critical importance. We work pretty readily with both partnerships for the Delaware Estuary and Delaware Bay, as well as for the Center for the Inland Bays. And when you look at just the potential - ecological significance right on a much broader scale - we know that shellfish aquaculture is in fact a very green farming practice.”

It could also make up to five-million seed oysters available to those culturing oysters in caged-base aquaculture in the Inland Bays.

The hatchery will be at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s Lewes campus and should be ready this summer.

Hale says there were approximately 111,000 oysters harvested in 2019, which is a very small number from the Inland Bays.

He says 259,000 were harvested in 2020.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.