State Regulators Try to Solve Oyster Farming Conflict in Virginia Beach

Sep 26, 2016

While oyster farming is a multi-million dollar industry in Virginia, there’s only so much space to grow them. In some places, it is the same space used by waterfront homeowners and recreational boaters, and that has led to conflicts that could mean removing some oyster farms.


John Korte grew up boating the waterways of Virginia Beach. During the past year-and-a-half, he and neighbors began to see large metal oyster cages during low tide in parts of the Lynnhaven River.

“And they're not just one or two cages, they are lines of cages. And for somebody whose driving around in a skiff that can take ten inches of water or a jet ski, something like that, that's going to impact where you can now boat.”

Since 2007, Virginia has leased thousands of acres of river bottoms to oyster farmers. Some of the last acres are being snapped up are along the beaches in front of homes.

A workgroup that includes homeowners and watermen agree the old laws on how people are notified of a potential new oyster farm need an overhaul. Mike Oesterling who represents the shellfish industry explains.

Credit John Korte

“The old notification process required that a lease application be posted at the county courthouse. Now I don't know about you, but I try to avoid the county courthouse as much as I possibly can.”

State commissioners will take a first step toward compromise during an upcoming hearing that the oyster industry will be watching carefully— as it could mean some oyster farms will have to be removed.