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Delaware shellfish farming program lottery not quite complete

Katie Peikes
Delaware Public Media
Fisheries administrator John Clark and environmental scientist Michael Bott pull lottery numbers from the batch.

A lottery for acres in the First State’s shellfish farming program was held Tuesday night in Lewes, but people walked away empty-handed for now. 




Shellfish enthusiasts and watermen will have to wait a little longer to get their leases because officials with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) said the person drawn first in the lottery wasn’t there.


The order in which people will select leases was set and the 58 watermen who applied will be contacted by phone over the next couple of weeks to choose their acres.


Beyond the delayed efforts to finalize acre assignments, many people like Tim Sage from Lincoln still have concerns about the program. Sage said he is concerned about how bountiful some acres located closer to land will be for shellfish farming.


“Some of them look very shallow so I don’t know how that would fare for winter time if you have a real low tide and you have exposed shellfish they could possibly freeze,” Sage said.


Some watermen have concerns beyond lease productivity. Commercial clammer Steven Friend said he’s glad the program has gotten this far after regulations were put into place three years ago, however, he is worried not everyone who wants to lease acres in the Inland Bays actually wants to grow oysters and clams.


“There is some excitement that we did have the drawing tonight, but it’s disappointing that there were 58 names thrown into the mix, and I don’t think that there’s actually 58 growers that are actually going to grow oysters and clams,” Friend said. “So I feel that there’s a few people that’s put in names that are just trying to hold up the progress, and I don’t think that’s right, but that’s the way the system is.”


John Clark, a fisheries administrator with DNREC, said it’s possible homeowners near the Inland Bays who don’t want aquaculture activity happening outside of their house could have signed up for leases, but he doesn’t know if that’s the case.


“More recently, I think there might even be some people that just are intrigued by the idea or maybe don’t want a lease going on in front of their house or something. I don’t know what is the motivation for everybody,” he said.


Regardless, Clark believes the number of people who showed up at the lottery is a good sign.


“We have some people that are very serious about this, they really want to do this and then we have some others who are curious and figured they’d get in and lease some bottom and give it a try,” Clark said.


Each applicant can lease 10 total acres—five combined in Rehoboth and Indian River Bays for oysters, and five in Little Assawoman Bay for hard clams only.

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