As many of you know, issues of concern have been raised by some homeowners regarding oyster leases and oyster aquaculture in the Lynnhaven, especially in Linkhorn Bay. After this year’s General Assembly session, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission established a workgroup to address the homeowner concerns and to make recommendations for ways to resolve the problems. The workgroup members have been meeting since April and are making progress in addressing the issues that have been raised. We have discussed notification processes for adjacent property owners; acceptable distance from the shoreline for oyster cages; signage for oyster reefs and oyster cages; and usage agreements that would specify what types of aquaculture will be conducted on a specific reef. Over the next two months, we will continue to meet and formulate recommendations. It is our hope to be able to conclude this work by the end of the summer. We appreciate the information that has been shared by everyone with an interest in this issue. I remain convinced that we will be able to find compromises that will be acceptable to most people.
Oysters have played a major role in restoring the Lynnhaven River. We have made much progress in the past two decades, but we have a lot more work to do and oysters will continue to be important in helping us reach the goal of a healthy river. Sanctuary reefs are critical to continuing to increase our native oyster population. Oyster reefs provide a myriad of ecosystem benefits including water filtration and pollution removal, nitrogen storage, shoreline protection, and habitat for a wide variety of marine plants and animals. For over a decade, federal, state, and local agencies have partnered with citizens, students, harvesters and non-profits to revitalize the Lynnhaven’s devastated oyster population. This is an amazing collaborative success story that has led to construction of 63 acres of sanctuary reef habitat and stocked 25 million reproductive oysters in the Lynnhaven. Because of improved water quality, oyster aquaculture has bloomed in the Lynnhaven, allowing us to eat oysters without damaging the wild oyster population. Aquaculture brings oysters into the Lynnhaven, which filter and grow in our river, and then ultimately remove nitrogen when they are harvested. For a healthy river, we need this balance of sanctuary reefs and aquaculture harvest.