Dozens of leases available for Delaware Bay shellfish grounds

Applications due to DNREC by Wednesday, March 15
January 26, 2023

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Division of Fish and Wildlife recently announced that shellfish grounds in Delaware Bay are available for lease.

According to a map provided by DNREC, there are more than 40 lease sites available in a 30,000-acre area of the bay stretching from Port Mahon south to Bowers Beach. Michael Globetti, DNREC spokesperson, said the available lease sites are not new. State law requires DNREC to publish the notice of availability, he said.

Delaware Bay has been used for aquaculture for over a century. Globetti said oyster planting was a practice in the Delaware Bay in the 1850s. There was a law in 1851 that placed a limit of one acre on planting grounds for citizens’ use, he said.

In a supplement to the Oyster Act, passed in March 1871, a line was created separating public grounds and private planting grounds within the bay, said Globetti. The Delaware Oyster Survey Commission charted the leased oyster grounds in 1910, so oyster aquaculture in the bay likely began in the early 1900s and probably even earlier than that, he said.

The shapes of the lease sites in Delaware Bay are much more random than the acre-by-acre-sized sites available in the Inland Bays.

Some of the irregularly shaped leases date back to the early 1900s, said Globetti. More recently designed sites must be between 50 and 100 acres, and have a rectangular or square shape, except for those leases granted for scientific purposes, he said.

Globetti said although the leaseholders report their harvest, it is difficult to determine productivity from the harvest reports.

The Jan. 15 notice says the available lease sites are not related to the sites in the Inland Bays, which is a program that’s still fairly new – the first cages for the program were dropped in 2018.

According to the notice, any person wishing to lease areas within the defined boundaries of the shellfish growing area that are not already under lease must submit an application to DNREC prior to Wednesday, March 15, on a form provided by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. In the event that more than one application is received for the same area, the grounds will be leased by competitive sealed bid and above the base fee for the first year.

For more information, contact David Stormer at 302-739-9914 or DNREC Headquarters, 89 Kings Hwy., Dover, DE 19901.


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