NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Would more regulations save Virginia’s oyster population? That’s what the Virginia Marine Resource Commission says has to happen or they’ll lose the state’s special catch. On the flip side, local watermen said more rules will make their jobs almost impossible to make a living.
Far away from their boats, nearly a hundred of Virginia’s watermen sat in a boardroom, Tuesday. They said they came to protect their jobs.
“About ten and a half months out of the year it’s oysters, strictly all oysters for me,” waterman Timmy Firth said. “And a lot of these guys are [harvesting].”
Firth has worked on Virginia’s waterways for more than 40 years.
“It just seems like every time we turn around there’s a regulation,” he sighed.
Tuesday the Virginia Marine Resource Commission opened a public hearing on new rules for watermen.
“The number of oysters that are projected to be available on the public oyster grounds is diminished in some cases by two-thirds,” Laurie Naismith of the VMRC said.
Naismith said experts have told the state, if they don’t do something they risk destroying their oyster population. At the hearing the commission weighed their regulation options.
“If we don’t limit access and the number of people that are allowed by their license to harvest oysters then one of the alternatives is to cut the number of bushels in half,” Naismith said.
However, the watermen said more rules will create more than an inconvenience, it could end their jobs.
“I mean there’s no way in the world you can raise a family off $75 a day.,” Firth said. “Four bushels a day? That’s ludicrous.”
“We just want them to leave it where it’s at, if anything,” waterman Donna Melzer said. “If they lower it in any way, shape or form it’s gonna just totally impact us too hard to survive the winter.”
Stay with WAVY.com for when a final decision is made.