Current eastern oyster fishery production is a fraction of what it was a century ago due to overfishing, habitat destruction, disease, and pollution. Recently however, oyster aquaculture has begun to rebound, largely due to the development of disease resistant oyster and increased use of intensive aquaculture practices (cages, racks, or floats). Parallell to this rebound in production has been an increase in the area of subaqueous leases in Virginia for oyster growing. Currently, over 120,000 acres of bottom are leased and applications for 25,000 acres are pending—up from just 90,000 leased acres only a decade ago and approaching the historical maximum of 134,000 acres attained in the 1960’s. Despite these positive trends, several factors may inhibit continued industry growth. Tensions between the Virginia aquaculture industry and the public have increased substantially over the last few years. In coastal communities like those along the densely populated Lynnhaven River conflict with oyster aquaculturists has largely centered on the use of intensive aquaculture methods, which are argued to be unsightly and possibly even dangerous to bay recreational activities. Though aquaculturists contend their efforts are providing much needed jobs and economic stimulus while simultaneously enhancing water quality and restoring the Bay, coastal property owners worry about the industry’s effect on property values and safety.
Oyster leasing is currently facing some critical users conflicts. Property owners associate oyster leases and aquaculture with “the evil” (pers.com.) and tend to claim that oyster cages are “everywhere”. One of my communication goal for this project is to reduce this misperception of the impacts of oyster leasing and try to communicate the benefits associated with growing oysters to this coastal property owner community. That’s why my key audience will be mainly property owners and local communities but this tool will also greatly benefit managers at VMRC.
I would like to develop a one-page infographic about Virginia oyster leasing representing these points:
- Fact sheet/ fact numbers about local productivity and economy from oyster growing activities and aquaculture benefits
- Oyster aquaculture benefits
- Include some historical context (historical photos from the 1960’s when oyster production was at its peak)
- Relative extent of intensive oyster aquaculture in the Lynnhaven River
- Google Satellite image (to see where the cages really are)
- Some simple diagrams/ pie (number of leases, number of lease holders, % of intensive use)
- Diagram of the leasing process that can currently be found at this page but under text format http://www.mrc.state.va.us/Shellfish_Aquaculture.shtm to encourage the use of lease and/ or people to apply for a lease.
- Include contact information of VMRC Oyster Ground lease program.
- Oyster aquaculture benefits
I am still not sure how and where I will distribute this communication product. Probably I will try to pin some at local recreational businesses around Lynnhaven river (eg kayak, jet skis rental store) or distribute some at fresh markets or seafood festivals.