Richmond, VA – When you think of the Chesapeake Bay, an iceberg probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, it’s probably the most accurate picture of ongoing conservation activities to improve the health and vitality of the world’s third largest estuary. There’s a lot more going on below the surface than meets the eye.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has partnered with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) for eight years to create habitat for oysters, fish and other wildlife. Their newest collaboration to support Bay water quality improvements is targeting funding and resources to restore about 40 acres of privately leased oyster beds.
“Oyster aquaculture is a rapidly growing industry in Virginia,” said NRCS State Conservationist Jack Bricker. “This partnership to reestablish reefs on private shellfish grounds offers a win for watermen and the Bay as the growing populations remove large volumes of nutrients from these waters.”
“Overharvest is often the first contributing factor that comes to mind when people think about the decline of the Chesapeake Bay Oyster,” adds Andrew Button, VMRC Department Head, Conservation and Replenishment.
“However, habitat loss and oyster diseases played an equal, if not larger, role in the decline. This project tackles both of these issues by encouraging the creation of new oyster habitat, and by utilizing hatchery produced oysters that have been selectively bred for increased resistance to common oyster diseases.”
Oyster growers who receive services from the Accomac, Chesapeake, Gloucester, Quinton, Smithfield, Tappahannock and Warsaw NRCS service centers may be eligible for $180,000 in funding to deploy new shells and begin spat on shell production in target areas. Interested individuals must submit a signed VMRC pre-approval form and a completed NRCS application by May 15, 2020 to be considered for FY 20 funding.
NRCS helped fund this project through USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Created in the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP draws on local knowledge and networks to fuel collaborative projects and empowers communities to design conservation solutions that work best for their regions.
For more information on Virginia RCPP projects, visit www.va.nrcs.usda.gov. To learn more about VMRC projects/activities, visit www.mrc.virginia.gov/Shellfish_Aquaculture.shtm. For more information pertaining to the Accomac Service Center program, please contact Jenny Templeton, [email protected] or 757-302-4435.