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THE AQUACULTURE PROJECT

Aquaculture: Hatchery Pilot Project

The Inland Bays were first designated as impaired waters due to nutrient enrichment by DNREC in 1974. This status was subsequently reaffirmed via the TMDL work, which was completed in 1998. In June of 2013, Governor Jack Markell, signed legislation that would, for the first time in 40 years, allow leasing of subaqueous lands in the Inland Bays for commercial aquaculture of bi-valves, including clams and oysters. The legislation states, that for decades “…the waters of the Inland Bays have been water quality impaired, and would benefit from the filtering capability of additional bivalve shellfish…” Of the approximately 8,000 acres of the Rehoboth, Indian River, and Little Assawoman Bays around 400 Acres will be offered by lottery to those who have the financial wherewithal and experience to grow clams and oysters under a commercial waterman’s license.

The subaqueous leasing program is a critical opportunity for Delaware to improve water quality, and promote aquaculture jobs. However, Delaware is the only eastern state that currently lacks a shellfish hatchery to provide spat for use in growing clams and oysters. As will be noted, an in-state hatchery is the foundation of the Governor’s Inland Bays shellfish aquaculture initiative.

The importance of having an in-state hatchery is established in the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association Best Management Practices for the East Coast Shellfish Aquaculture Industry June 2010:

  • “After numerous attempts at purchasing seed from out of state hatcheries, growers have learned … that local seed tends to grow best,”
  • “Disease resistant seed from local brood species that have built up immunity over time tend to lose such immunity in foreign waters; and
  • “The most important reason to purchase local seed is to minimize transmission of shellfish diseases from hatchery waters to grow-out waters.”

In collaboration with Dr. Dennis McIntosh the aquaculture specialist at Delaware State University, EDEN is proposing to conduct the due diligence and the research to plan for a land-based commercial hatchery in the Inland Bays.