2017 oyster quota up 7 percent from last year
An increase to the oyster quota in the First State isn’t expected to threaten the state’s oyster stock.
Delaware’s registered oyster harvesters will see a 7 percent increase in the state’s oyster quota, which is being raised to 11,438 bushels this year. The increase was decided Wednesday night at the Advisory Council on Shellfisheries.
But Leonard “Limbo” Voss, the chairman of the council, said he is disappointed because it still remains the lowest in the region.
“I think the quota could probably be safely doubled,” Voss said. “Even if it was to have a detrimental impact, they could correct it by closing it down, but I think that we’re harvesting at very, very conservative levels.”
Voss himself has an oyster license, but he said he allows someone else to harvest his quota. In return, he harvests his comrade’s striped bass quota.
“I allow someone else to harvest my quota because it’s so small, it’s not really worth my time doing it…” Voss said.
Delaware has seen low amounts of baby oysters, or “spat," for the last couple of decades, said Rich Wong, a biometrician with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.
“In order to allow the fishery to operate, there has to be enough market-sized oysters,” Wong said. “And there was plenty of them so it was above the threshold. If you’re below the threshold, it will close the fishery.”
An increase in spat in 2016 allowed for more oysters to go into the market.
“When the quotas go up it’s because we saw that many oysters increase from one year to the next,” Wong said. “I’m pretty confident that’s not jeopardizing the stock, no doubt.”
Delaware has about 180 permitted oyster harvesters, but not all of them harvest each year.
Fisheries Administrator John Clark said the increased quota will allow for close to 65 bushels to be harvested per license.
The quota goes into effect in April when the fishery opens.