, 2015

Governor observes oyster reef creation

by Larry Chowning

GWYNN’S ISLAND—A $3.8 million oyster reef is being created just inside the mouth of Fishing Bay on the Piankatank River. The project is being funded by a public/private partnership among Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), the Nature Conservancy, the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

+ A | - A

The project launched May 30 at Narrows Marina on Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County when Gov. Terry McAuliffe accepted a $500,000 check from Michael Lipford, the Virginia executive director of the Nature Conservancy.

The Piankatank River is one of only a few rivers in Virginia where baby oysters (spat) grow quicker and healthier than in most places. The James River is the main oyster seed growing river in Virginia, and the Rappahannock and York rivers and Virginia’s Potomac River tributaries are considered better waters for growing oysters to market size.

The governor toured the Fishing Bay reef site Friday afternoon with a delegation from the Corps, Nature Conservatory and the press in VMRC’s “J.B. Baylor,” a fiberglass deadrise boat.

The oyster reef is being made of “clean ground concrete” the size of baseballs. Concrete is being used instead of traditional oyster shells for “cultch,” which is a foundation created for oyster larvae to attach and grow.

Andy Lacatell, project manager with the Nature Conservancy, said using concrete allows the state to conserve oyster shells, which are used for oyster aquaculture operations and VMRC’s annual oyster replenishment program.

The Piankatank reef is an oyster sanctuary and is part of a statewide project to restore oysters to 10 state tributaries by 2025. The seed from the Fishing Bay reef will be harvested and carried to other locations to grow to maturity, said VMRC oyster specialist Jim Weston.

Oysters are filter feeders and are considered to have one of the important roles in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

Since 2001 Virginia’s commercial oyster harvest has increased more than tenfold. In 2001, only 23,000 bushels were harvested. In the 2012-13 season, it is estimated that nearly 400,000 bushels were harvested.

In its heyday of the 1960s and early 1970s, Virginia waters produced 4 million bushels of commercially-harvested oysters annually.

Bookmark and Share

About the weekly Rappahannock Record, to Subscribe, to Contact us, to send E-mail
Box 400, 27 N. Main St., Kilmarnock, VA 22482 Tel: 804-435-1701, Fax: 804-435-2632
These pages have been visited over 14,700,000 times since first publication, July 4, 1997
Webmaster: KC Troise. All design & content on these pages ©2014, Rappahannock Record. Privacy statement