Oyster Resource User Fees
Note: effective 8/31/16 the user fees for public oyster harvest were
put under a limited entry program. See
Section 4 VAC 20-720-15. Control Date, License Moratorium, Transferability
and Agents in Regulation 4 VAC 20-720 "PERTAINING TO RESTRICTIONS ON
OYSTER HARVEST". Contact Jamie Hogge (email@example.com;
757-247-2120) for questions on public harvest user fee transfer.
Effective July 1, 2013 the antiquated Virginia oyster taxes have been
repealed and will no longer have to be paid. The oyster tax forms will no longer
have to be filled out (although the mandatory harvest reports by harvesters
Instead, oyster industry participants will pay an annual resource user fee.
This is required under a bill, House Bill 1400, which was passed unanimously in
the 2013 Virginia General Assembly Session at the unanimous request of an
11-member industry panel that represented all facets of the industry. The
Panel's report can be found
The revenue collected from these annual user fees will be used for the Oyster
Replenishment Program, as required by the new law. The industry panel that
recommended the new law recognized the importance of oyster replenishment to the
health of the entire oyster industry and considered the user fees to be an
industry investment in its future.
The Oyster Replenishment Program provides many services for the industry. Oyster
replenishment on public oyster grounds involves the spreading of oyster shells
on state-owned water bottoms to provide habitat so naturally occurring larvae
can attach to the shells during spawning and form new adult oysters that will
reach market size in roughly three years.
The program also provides training and support for the growing oyster
aquaculture industry, and monitors oyster populations throughout the Chesapeake
Bay, its tributaries and the coastal bays of the Eastern Shore.
Every $1 spent on oyster replenishment yields $7 in economic benefits in the
form of larger harvests, and increased jobs for oyster shuckers and oyster
The bill establishes the following annual user fee schedule:
• Hand harvesters on public oyster grounds will pay a user fee of $50 a year if
they only harvest by hand.
• Non-hand harvesting oyster gear users on public oyster grounds will pay a user
fee of $300 a year. Only one gear user fee will be paid, regardless of how many
different types of licensed oyster gear are used.
• Any commercial oyster aquaculture operation taking oysters from riparian,
fee-simple or privately leased ground will pay a user fee of $50 a year (the
oyster aquaculture product owner permittee Is responsible for the $50 user fee
for private ground aquaculture operations that includes harvest).
• Harvesters who work on both public and private ground will pay both the
aquaculture and gear (or hand) harvest user fees each year.
• Oyster shucking and packing houses will pay a user fee ranging from $500 and
$4,000 a year, depending on the size of their operation.
• Oyster buyers will pay a user fee of $100 for a single truck or location, and
will pay $300 for buyers with multiple trucks or locations. Also, new oyster
buyer licenses will be required. They are in addition to the long-issued seafood
These user fees apply to anyone who harvests, attempts to harvest, or who
participates in the harvest of oysters for commercial purposes, whether the gear
license is in their name or not.
As always, all harvests must be reported to the agency.
This reform of the oyster tax system takes effect July 1, 2013. At that point,
industry participants no longer will pay oyster taxes but they must pay their
user fee before harvesting any oysters. Failure to pay the user fee is a Class 1
misdemeanor under the new law, punishable by up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine
and administrative sanctions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What is this all about?
A. At the unanimous recommendation of an oyster industry panel, the Virginia
General Assembly unanimously decided to reform the oyster tax system that has
been in place for decades. The two oyster taxes were a paperwork hassle for
harvesters, resulted in incomplete reporting of harvests, and didn’t raise much
money. They were repealed. As a result, harvesters will no longer have to pay
oyster tax or file oyster tax paperwork.
Instead, the General Assembly established annual user fees on everyone who grows
or harvests oysters for commercial purposes. The revenue raised from these fees
will be used in the Marine Resources Commission’s Oyster Replenishment Program,
which benefits the oyster industry as a whole.
Q. Who Needs to Pay a Oyster Resource User Fee?
A. Anyone who grows, harvests, shucks, packs or ships oysters for commercial
purposes must pay a oyster resource user fee every year. User fees do not
apply to oyster gardeners, meaning those people who raise oysters for
non-commercial purposes. Oyster aquaculture harvester permittees do not
have to pay the user fee since the oyster aquaculture product owner permittee is
responsible for the private ground user fee. User fees payments must be
made under the VMRC identification number (MRC ID) used to buy individual oyster
Q: I already bought my oyster license and paid my oyster taxes this year.
Shouldn’t that be deducted from my user fee?
A: Sorry, but that isn’t permitted. When the General Assembly passed the oyster
resource user fee bill, it did not enact a provision to allow other fees and/or
taxes that were paid to be credited towards the payment of the new oyster
resource user fee.
Q. When Do I Need to Pay My Oyster Resource User Fee?
A. As of the recent Commission meeting on April 25, 2017, oyster resource
user fees for any harvester using one or more gear types to harvest oysters must
be paid in the calendar year before an individual can harvest oysters in that
same calendar year. Starting this year, 2017, the public oyster resource user
fee ($300) must be paid every calendar year in order to maintain eligibility.
Only individuals who paid the oyster resource user fee described in §
28.2-541(A)(ii) of the Code of Virginia in any year, from 2013 through 2016, may
pay that fee in 2017. In any year following 2017, eligibility to pay the oyster
resource user fee shall be limited to those individuals who paid the oyster
resource user fee for harvest of oysters from public ground in the previous
Q. Where Do I Pay My Oyster Resource User Fee?
A. These user fees may be paid by mail to the Marine Resources Commission,
in person at agency headquarters, or at any of the agency’s licensing
agents. They cannot be paid at the Marine Police Operations Center in
Newport News. Also, you should know that oyster gear licenses will no longer
be sold at the Operations Center.
Shucking houses must pay their user fees at the agency’s headquarters or
Heathsville office, either in person or by mail, and cannot pay them through
licensing agents because these user fees can be as high as $4,000 (depending
on the quantities of oysters handled).
Q. What if I Don’t Pay My Oyster Resource User Fee?
A. You will not be allowed to grow, harvest, shuck, pack or ship harvest
oysters for commercial purposes until your annual user fee is paid for a
If you harvest oysters anyway, please keep in mind that failure to pay the
user fee is a Class 1 misdemeanor under the oyster resource user fee law,
punishable by up to a year in jail, a $2,500 fine and administrative
Q: I went to my license agent and they did not know what licenses to sell.
What licenses should I tell them I need?
A: Well, we hope this does not happen, since we work to ensure our agents
are aware of upcoming license changes. If it happens, here are the specific
license codes, license names and license or user fees sold in our licensing
For Oyster Harvesters:
378 PUBLIC OYSTER BY HAND ONLY USER FEE, $50
379 PUBLIC OYSTER ALL GEAR USER FEE, $300
387 PRIVATE OYSTER AQUACULTURE USER FEE, $50
For Shucking Houses:
381 OYSTER SHUCKING <1000 GALLON USER FEE, $500
382 OYSTER SHUCKING <10000 GALLON USER FEE, $1,000
383 OYSTER SHUCKING <25000 GALLON USER FEE, $2,000
384 OYSTER SHUCKING >25000 GALLON USER FEE, $4,000
For Single Place of Business (POB) with Single Boat or Truck Public Oyster
385 OYSTER SINGLE BUYER USER FEE, $100.00
412 OYSTER SINGLE BUYER LICENSE, $50.00
414 OYSTER BUYER BOAT/TRUCK IDENTIFIER PERMIT, $0
For Single POB Public Oyster Buyers with Multiple Boats or Trucks:
386 OYSTER MULTIPLE BUYER USER FEE, $300.00
413 OYSTER MULTIPLE BUYER LICENSE, $100.00
414 OYSTER BUYER BOAT/TRUCK IDENTIFIER PERMIT, $0
Q: I have a regular seafood buyer license. Can I buy oysters from a
harvester with this license?
A: No, your regular buyers licenses are only for seafood other than oysters
and will still be needed if you buy other types of seafood. The new law sets
up a specific set of licenses and user fees for buyers of oysters. Please
see the licenses list immediately above for the new buyer user fees and
licenses. The single Place of Business/BOAT/TRUCK buyer's license is for any
single place of business with no more than one buy boat or buy truck (single
buyer can have one of each). For each boat or truck with documentation that
it is properly authorized we will also issue a no cost 414 OYSTER BUYER
IDENTIFIER PERMIT for each boat or truck associated with the oyster buyer
license, so for a single oyster buyer - the licensee may have up to four
privileges issued (the $100 user fee, the $50 oyster single buyer license,
and one no-cost permit for each boat or truck used by the business); for the
no cost permits, the buyer will need to provide the VIN of the buying truck
or the USCG Document Number of the boat or vessel used for buying.
Multiple Oyster Buyer licensees need to buy the multiple buyer user fee and
buyer license, but then for all boats or trucks associated with the single
place of business obtain the no-cost permits that will document the VINs of
the buying truck(s), and the USCG Document Numbers of the boat(s) used for
buying. If there are any oyster buyers that have more than one place of
business, they only need to pay the multiple buyer user fee once, but then
they will need one of the new oyster buyers licenses and associated
identifier permits for each of their places of business.
Q: I can pay the new oyster resource user fee or oyster gear license by
mail, right? Where do I send the check?
A: Yes. Send your check or money order to VMRC, Building 96, 380 Fenwick
Road, Ft. Monroe, VA 23651. Write Attention Licensing on the envelope.
Do not send cash through the mail. Be sure to include the type of user fee
and license you need, your VMRC identification number that you need to
purchase the licenses under and any new address or contact data. For oyster
buyers licenses we also need you to include the Business Name for the Place
of Business (POB), the state Vehicle Identification Number of the buying
truck, and the U.S. Coast Guard Document Number of the boat or vessel used
for buying. (We will use these identifying pieces of information to issue
the no-cost OYSTER BUYER IDENTIFIER PERMIT that is needed for each
POB/Boat/Truck used by the oyster buyer).
Q: Do I still send in my VMRC 453/455/457 monthly reports?
A: Only for harvests through June 30, 2013. These final oyster tax reports
and taxes should be submitted by July 5, 2013. After July 1, 2013, this new
legislation eliminates the oyster tax system. As a result, oyster buyers no
longer have to file the VMRC 450 series harvest reports that were used to
calculate taxes. This is important: Harvest reports are still required.
Nothing about oyster harvest reporting has changed. Public ground oyster
harvesters still need to submit their daily harvests on a monthly basis on
the Commission's standard mandatory reporting forms. Similarly, daily oyster
harvests from riparian, fee simple or private leased ground must be reported
in the mandatory reporting program by the licensee responsible for reporting
on a specific lease or private ground (the person holding the oyster
aquaculture product owner license that is associated with the specific
Q: I work both public and private grounds. Do I have to pay two oyster
resource user fees?
A: Yes, you do need to pay two user fees, one for working on public ground
and the other for working in private ground. User fee types 378, 379 are for
public harvesting and user fee type 387 is for private ground harvesting.
Note that for private ground harvesting, only the oyster aquaculture product
owner permittee has to pay the associated 387 user fee. Oyster product owner
permittees also may have no-cost vessel permits but separate user fees are
not needed for these vessel permits or for oyster aquaculture harvester
Q: I paid my oyster resource user fee a while back, but when I went to buy
my oyster gear license from an agent they said it was not paid and would not
let me buy the gear license. What do I do?
A: The likely reason for this is that you paid the user fee under one VMRC
identification number and then tried to buy your gear license under a
different VMRC identification number. You must buy your oyster gear license
under the same identification number as was used to pay your user fee.
Most commercial harvester should not have duplicate identities in our
licensing system, but if you think this has happened please report the
or call her at 757-247-2127.
Q: I just got my Commercial Registration License (CRL) and it says “Not
authorized to harvest oysters until oyster resource harvester user fee and
oyster harvest gear license fees have been paid, failure to pay appropriate
user and license fee is a Class 1 misdemeanor, up to $2,500 fine or one year
in jail.” What's that about?
A: This is just fair notice to all commercial watermen that they must pay
this new oyster resource user fee and buy the correct harvest gear license
before they are allowed to harvest oysters. When the Marine Police do their
inspections they will look for the license system documents that show the
person harvesting oysters has paid all the applicable fees.
Q: I went to an agent to pay my 378 PUBLIC OYSTER BY HAND ONLY USER FEE, but
the agent was not able to sell me one. Why not?
A: The hand harvest user fee only applies to harvesters that harvest oyster
commercially by hand from public grounds. The only intertidal public grounds
are on the Eastern Shore. For this reason only prior licensed hand
harvesters from the Eastern Shore have been authorized in the license system
to pay this specific user fee. If you are harvesting in these areas and you
have not been authorized to pay this user fee please contact Andrew Button (firstname.lastname@example.org
757-247-2121) or Jamie Hogge (Jamie.Hogge@mrc.virginia.gov
757-247-2120) to request an authorization for this user fee type.
Q: I work on a boat that dredges and scrapes on public grounds, I have a
Commercial Registration License but the dredge and scrape license are in the
captain’s name, do I need to pay a oyster resource user fee?
A: Yes, each harvester who is entitled to a daily quota in the hand scrape
and dredge public fisheries must pay a user fee. Workers who only cull the
catch, but do not keep any portion of a daily quota, do not have to pay the
Q: I still don’t understand something about these new oyster resource user
fees. Who do I contact for more information?
A: The following fisheries staff will be able to help you with any question: