Aquaculture Debris After Storm Concerns Residents

SNOW HILL – Public concerns over aquaculture sites in Chincoteague Bay off South Point continue despite a recent public meeting.

Two areas in Chincoteague Bay have been selected as pre-approved aquaculture sites, with the rest of the bay licensed through a more involved process.

There are several aquaculture operations currently in leased waters along the South Point shoreline.

On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners discussed aquaculture issues with staff.

The state considered 16 different areas in the coastal bays as aquaculture sights and selected two, said county Natural Resources Administrator Chris McCabe.

“These were the two that ranked the highest,” said McCabe.

DNR also considered Dog Island Shoal in Sinepuxant Bay, but decided against that location because of boat traffic, he said.

The two areas selected are in five feet of water or less, well away from the navigation channel, and over 800 feet from the mainland. Mesh bags attached to the bay floor will likely be used to contain farmed shellfish.

A recent meeting brought out 20 South Point residents over one requested aquaculture license, but the South Pointers were not concerned about that particular license, McCabe said.

Residents had questions about the size of one area, which at 1,080 acres seemed too large to some. Concerns were also expressed over the paraphernalia of aquaculture, such as bags, ropes and tie downs. After a storm, who would be responsible for cleaning those items from local shorelines after a storm, they asked.

“Not one of the 11 members of the task force voted for this for a reason,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley, who served on the aquaculture group.

No one has really answered the question of aquaculture-related storm debris, County Commission President Bud Church said.

“Nobody wanted to take responsibility for it,” Shockley said.

The lessee should be responsible, he said.

Other concerns have been raised over marking the aquaculture area so jet skiers don’t go through it, Church said.

DNR Secretary John Griffin has agreed to meet with South Point residents to go over their concerns. Griffin has been very receptive, said Church.

“This is a major concession…they are working to resolve the concerns of the people of South Point,” said Church.