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REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. – Today, U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined local and state officials, representatives from the University of Delaware and the Center for the Inland Bays to announce two federal grants to support the development of oyster farming in Delaware’s Inland Bays.

The U.S. Department of Commerce awarded $164,341 to the University of Delaware to study the economics of ecosystem services from aquaculture and estimating consumer willingness to pay for oysters marketed as local and marketed as improving water quality.

Also, USDA Rural Development awarded the University of Delaware’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative a $28,287 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to work with a b + c Creative Intelligence to research and develop a branding strategy for Inland Bay aquaculture products that will be used by all the new shellfish farmers to brand and market their products to restaurants and customers.

In 2013, the Delaware General Assembly passed legislation that allowed for commercial aquaculture in the Inland Bays.

“These grants from the U.S. Department of Commerce and USDA Rural Development will look into the business potential for Delaware shellfish aquaculture,” said Sen. Carper. “Oyster farming is a win-win for Delaware, since oysters improve water quality and farming will create another local industry that provides jobs. There is good work being done in Delaware by both public and private partners, and these grants will help further that research.”

“DNREC has worked diligently, along with many partners, to implement measures that improve the water quality of our Inland Bays – reducing nutrients from agriculture, eliminating waste water discharges and improving stormwater management,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “The new aquaculture regulations will help assure that this industry grows in a way that preserves our native hard clam populations, is compatible with other public uses, creates economic development and improves water quality. These grants will help the industry take informed next steps.”

“We are all extremely excited to see oyster aquaculture come to our state, because oysters have the potential to be both good for the economy and good for the environment and it is somewhat rare that you see these two things go hand in hand,” said Sunny Jardine, assistant professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy at the University of Delaware. “Having oysters in the water improves water quality, because oysters filter nutrient pollutants out of the water, such as Nitrogen and Phosphorous, which come from agricultural and urban runoff and pollute our water bodies.”

“With funding support from USDA Rural Development, we have initiated an effort to develop a strong, local market share for Inland Bays aquaculture products,” said Ed Lewandowski, UD Coastal Communities Development Specialist. “Creating brand affinity with consumers and brand equity for producers will be absolutely critical to gaining successful product entry and then sustaining this market success.” 

“Delaware oyster farmers will be stewards of the Bays,” said Chris Bason, Executive Director of the Center for the Inland Bays. “Their livelihood, like that of so many others in Sussex County, depends on clean water.”