The Center for the Inland Bays shows off a small example of oyster growth to Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware. (Photo: WBOC)
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Oyster farms could soon come to Delaware's Inland Bays.
The Center for the Inland Bays is leading efforts seeking approval for commercial shellfish aquaculture. As part of the practice, watermen grow and harvest their own oysters by leasing space from the state. It's currently not allowed in the three inland bays.
"It would create jobs," said Ted Nowakowski, partner in Broadwater Oyster Company. "It would also create revenue."
Nowakowski lives in Rehoboth Beach but must drive to Virginia to grow oysters. He said the state of Delaware is losing out to Maryland and Virginia.
"They're behind the eight ball with neighboring states that are making revenue and creating full time jobs," Nowakowski said.
Supporters said more oysters would improve water quality and help the economy.
"Every dollar that's spent on oysters or growing oysters multiplied by two and a half that adds to the economy," said EJ Chalabala, restoration coordinator for the CIB.
Chalabala showed off a small sample of a farm to Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., on Thursday. Carper said the state's agriculture economy is dominated by poultry and soybeans.
"We need to diversify our agricultural economy," said Carper. "This is one good way, not the only way, but a good way of diversifying our economy."
The tricky part is deciding where to allow the farms without having a major impact on commercial clammers. Early proposals call for about 830 acres, or 2.7 percent of the inland bays, to be leased for shellfish aquaculture, Chalabala said.
"We're looking for places where people don't recreate a lot, don't boat a whole lot and most importantly, where there's less clams in the inland bays," said Chalabala.
A proposal for state lawmakers to approve the practice should be ready by the upcoming legislative session in January, Chalabala said.
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