Inland Bays Group To Navigate Bill For Delaware Aquaculture - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Inland Bays Group To Navigate Bill For Delaware Aquaculture

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REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - In the next few months, the First State could be the next state to adopt an aquaculture industry on the East Coast.

"Why now? You know, it's time," said E.J. Chalabala.

On the surface, the proposed launch of a new aquaculture industry looks attractive: big bucks for Delaware.

"It's about time for us to start getting into the $119 million industry that makes up the East Coast," said Chalabala, a Restoration Coordinator, Delaware Center for Inland Bays.

But the heated debate over oyster farming boils below the water line.

Rehoboth, Indian River and Little Assawoman Bays are all, on average, about six to eight-feet deep,according to Chalabala. With oyster beds about four feet high, recreational boaters and fishermen, residents and some clammers worry this will drastically change their way of life.

"It really puts a damper on where we can or can't go and what we can do," said Joshua Alexander, a Long Neck resident.

Todd Dorman works as a commercial clammer in Rehoboth Bay.  He believes that if the law can be changed now to allow lease ground "and take it from the public then they can change the law again" to add more land for oyster farms.

"We do not want to put these oyster cages and this gear on top of areas that clammers or recreational clammers can get access to clams to make their livelihood on," said Chalabala.

After a year of research, Delaware Center For The Inland Bays is now moving forward with their plans to introduce the oyster farm bill. Robert Rheaut, an executive director of East Coast Shellfish Growers Association, supports the idea. He refers to the success of Rhode Island, which reportedly has a $3 million aquaculture industry with 42 farmers using 172 acres of water.

But he admits, in the beginning, not everyone was on board. 

"It was very challenging to get my lease established and everybody thought it was going to be the end of the world," said Rheaut.

The opposition has since eased up in Rhode Island, says Rheaut, but residents here say they won't back down.

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