The director of the Center for the Inland Bays says the state's proposed aquaculture regulations in the bays should allow not only oyster farming but clam and scallop farming as well.
Speaking at a public hearing on the state's proposed aquaculture regulations, Chris Bason, executive director of the Center for the Inland Bays, said proposed legislation should include all three fisheries.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control held the hearing May 21 at the Lewes Field Facility.
The proposed regulations call for fishermen to lease 1-acre lots in the bays to farm shellfish. Clams would be allowed to be farmed only in the Little Assawoman Bay, officials said, to prevent introducing diseases into clams in the Rehoboth and Indian River Bays. To date, the proposed regulations do not call for scallop farming in any of the bays.
Bason said fishermen should be allowed to farm scallops and clams in all three bays. He said DNREC has provided no credible evidence that clam aquaculture would damage the clam fishery in any of the bays.
Division of Fish and Wildlife Program Manager Zina Hense is developing aquaculture legislation. Hense said the proposed regulations are based on the experience of other states and on comments from earlier workshops.
The regulations call for leasing 1-acre square lots, each surrounded by 20 feet of unleased, open water.
As of now, leased areas would be marked by PVC piping at each of the four corners, each post rising 5 feet above the water.
Bason called that plan excessive; he recommended eliminating posts at the corners of multiacre plots leased by the same farmer to reduce the number of pipes in the water.
Fisherman Steve Friend was an active participant of the two prior workshops held on the regulations and said the 20-foot space between leased lots is not enough to maneuver around the plots.
State regulators will take submitted written comments on the regulations until Thursday, June 5.
Shellfish aquaculture will occupy a small percentage of each bay. The plots will cover 4.3 percent of Rehoboth Bay, 1.36 percent of Indian River Bay and 9.3 percent of Little Assawoman Bay.
Delaware is the only state on the East Coast that has yet to implement an aquaculture system.