Senator Carper Holds Roundtable on Delaware’s Aquaculture Industry

LEWES, Del. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) convened a roundtable discussion on oyster aquaculture at the University of Delaware in Lewes with oyster farmers and other stakeholders from across the state. Ed Hale, Assistant Professor of the Sea Grant Program at the University of Delaware, moderated the discussion, which examined the needs and challenges of the oyster aquaculture industry while also highlighting Senator Carper’s ongoing efforts to support oyster aquaculture in the First State.

Senator Carper is a cosponsor of S. 2211, Sustaining Healthy Ecosystems, Livelihoods, and Local Seafood (SHELLS) Act, which would establish an Office of Aquaculture at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help aquaculture producers take advantage of USDA programs, provide technical assistance, and elevate aquaculture issues within USDA. Senator Carper also supported federal funding to the University of Delaware and Delaware State University to create a Fisheries and Aquaculture Innovation Center to train students for careers in shellfish aquaculture, research and development.

“Supporting oyster aquaculture is a win-win for Delaware,” said Senator Carper, Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the U.S. Senate. “Oysters help filter our water and stabilize our shoreline, and oyster aquaculture contributes to our economy by bringing good-paying jobs to Delaware. I have been incredibly heartened to see the growth of this industry in our state over the last five years, and I look forward to supporting its continued success in the years to come.”

“Bringing our shellfish farming community together is an important step in tackling how to improve the future of the blue economy in the state of Delaware, as the industry is expected to exceed $3 trillion dollars by 2030,” said Professor Hale. “I am very appreciative of Senator Carper’s leadership in aquaculture as we seek to improve the ecology of our waterways and economic diversity of our industry.”

Aquaculture in Delaware is a fairly new industry. Until 2013, Delaware was one of two coastal states that lacked a shellfish aquaculture industry. Historically, Delaware oysters were harvested in large quantities with peak harvest occurring after World War II when more than 4,000 acres of Delaware’s Inland Bays were leased for oyster production. Aquaculture was prohibited in 1979 after the natural oyster population was decimated. In 2014, new Delaware state legislation was passed which allowed for oyster and hard clam aquaculture. The first land lease for growing oysters in Delaware occurred in 2017 with the first commercial sale of oysters in Delaware in 2018.