Battle over Lynnhaven oyster farming continues

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jul 29, 2016

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It's another chance to find middle ground.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission task force met again on Friday. The group is made up of homeowners, representatives of the oyster farming industry, and public safety officials, who have worked together all summer to come up with recommendations that benefit all parties.

"Oyster cages have been deployed out there on the water bottoms and it's been done in a way that residents didn't know that they were coming, and they didn't have a voice," says John Bull, commissioner of the VMRC.

The fight is over whether oyster farmers should be able to continue to use the waters on the Lynnhaven River where and how they currently are.

Some residents have complained about their business getting too close to their shoreline.

"Obviously if someone doesn't want someone on their shoreline working oysters then how do you deal with that? I think you work with them directly," says Christopoher Schellhammer, who owns a waterfront property and does oyster farming as a hobby.

Opinions at the meetings are still clashing, however, the group has worked through several ideas.

Among them, oyster farmers would have a certain distance that they must keep from the shoreline. The group also discussed a possible permitting system, where there would be public hearings before new cages are put in the water.

Schellhammer says he wishes it never got this far.

"I'm not sure all this time and rules and regulations are really going to get us where we want to go."

VMRC officials say they will not be putting any oyster farmers out of business.

The recommendations that come from the meetings are just the beginning. If the recommendations require regulatory changes, the VMRC board would need to discuss and vote on them. If some require code changes, the General Assembly would need to discuss and vote on them next winter.