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Officials respond to Inland Bays residents' concerns by restricting areas for shellfish farming

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Photo credit: Joel McCord
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Before shellfish farmers can apply for plots in the Inland Bays, the state plans to restrict certain areas from aquaculture, due to concerns from neighboring residents.

In 2014, a number of homeowners and property owners began organizing into groups to protest the adoption of aquaculture regulations in the Inland Bays.

Among them was Meg Ward of the Coalition to Save Beach Cove.

“The ideal goal would be to have Beach Cove excluded as an aquaculture site because it’s not an appropriate place to have aquaculture," said Ward.

They were worried how this would change the tranquil landscape of the Inland Bays and specifically the dangers these aquaculture facilities would pose for recreational boaters.

Now, DNREC has entered the final permitting phase before shellfish farmers can start applying for plots.  The Statewide Activity Approval process has allowed the agency to exclude areas in Beach Cove and over half of the plots in Little Assawoman Bay from aquaculture production. Originally, officials had mapped out 442 one-acre plots in the Inland Bays.

Ward and her neighbors see this decision as a victory.

 

“I think it was a great example of how a community can come together to work with their officials, elected and appointed, to achieve a good outcome," said Ward.

Delaware Sea Grant aquaculture specialist John Ewart says this reduction isn’t likely to have much of an impact.

 

“The amount of acreage needed to get a 2 or 3 farm started is well below what’s available, so it’s not going to impinge anyone from getting started," said Ewart.

Chris Bason, executive director at the Center for the Inland Bays, had a different take on the issue. 

"It is great news the program is moving forward," he said in an email. "However, the removal of the areas, particularly in the Little Assawoman Bay, may make it more difficult for shellfish farmers because it reduces the variety of locations and conditions permissible for farming through a simplified permit process.  DNREC still must determine if Shellfish Aquaculture Development Areas (SADAs) have a sufficiently low density of wild hard clams before the SADA can be leased; this would likely further reduce acreage available for farming." 

He added that reducing these farmable areas will not help promote an industry that could improve the water quality of the Inland Bays. 

 

 

 

DNREC declined to provide any further comment regarding the final permitting process and is not indicating, for example, how long it will take.

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