The Conservation and Replenishment Department is tasked with the management and replenishment of the public oyster grounds in Virginia. The Department Chief with the assistance of an Advisory Committee develops strategies to improve and restore the public oyster grounds. Restoration activities include the spreading of cultch as oyster setting substrate, rejuvenation of old oyster beds using dredges, creation of oyster reefs for optimal oyster habitat, and the movement of oysters from seed areas to grow-out areas. The Department systematically and scientifically monitors all the restoration activities to determine their success.

Management strategies are developed and regulations promulgated to conserve the oyster resources using season and time limits, catch limits, and gear restrictions. Conservation and Replenishment personnel also coordinate all shellfish relaying information to ensure compliance with the Code of Virginia and FDA guidelines for handling shellfish taken from condemned shellfish areas.

In general because of the need to protect vulnerable shellfish resources and to protect public heath the licensing and permitting related to shellfish harvest is relatively complex.  Please use the web resources below to gain an understanding of shellfish actiivties managed by the Commission, but if you are new to shellfish fisheries in Viriginia tidal waters you may want to consider contacting Commission staff directly to get an overview of licensing, permitting, harvesting, and harvest reporting requirements.  Interested parties can contact the Conservation and Replenishment Department at (757) 247-2120.  MRC Field Office personnel can also often answer questions regarding shellfishing in their geographic area, click on the link to get field office hours and contact information.  The Virginia Department of Health, Department of Shellfish Safety also has an important role in shellfish harvest, click on the web link to learn more about their programs.

Related Links:

Virginia's Oyster Management and Industry Today

Shellfish Aquaculture

Oyster Resource User Fees

Oyster Resource User Fee Transfer form

Online Application for Selected Shellfish Permits (GPS, Bulk Seed, Cage Aquaculture Husbandry, Icing

Other Fisheries Permits and/or Limited Entry Related to Shellfish  

Regulations Related to Shellfish - scroll down the regulations table to see separate sections for clams, oysters and mixed shellfish

Replenishment Program procurement notices

Virginia Oyster Gardening Guide 

Virginia Oyster Heritage Program

2019-2020 Public Oyster Harvest Season

Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association (TOGA)

Historical Oyster Production Table: Public and Private Landings from 1957 forward.

Mobile Map of Condemnation Zones

Desktop Map of Chesapeake Bay to include Oyster Grounds, Crab Sanctuaries, and Condemnation Zones:   The map pulls data from a variety of sources to provide current oyster ground leasing, fixed fishing device and other geospatial information. 

Shellfish Harvester Training: Starting in 2015, Virginia shellfish harvesters will be required to complete this training prior to purchasing VMRC shellfish licenses and permits.

Manual for Remote Setting - This project and the manual was funded by the Virginia Fishery Resource Grant Program,  It was conducted in cooperation with 10 Virginia seafood companies and in conjunction with private industry which provided realistic expectations and estimates of expenses.

The video clips below demonstrate a way for watermen in the MRC Blue Crab Disaster Grant program to load spat on shell bags.

Blue Ribbon Oyster Panel 2007

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Important Links

VMRC Mobile
Chesapeake Bay Plate
Buy Recrecational Licenses
Fisherman Identification Program
VMRC Regulations
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Anglers Guide