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2016 Boating Safety Regulations: Updates

New and updated regulations on the requirements for: NACON2016
(1) operating a boat in Virginia waters; and
(2) having the correct safety equipment on board are detailed here:  2016_Boat Safety.

Because of these new regulations, particularly related to boat operator safety education, it is expected that law enforcement personnel will significantly increase their vessel boarding and inspections in our area.

Suddenly In Command

Dymer Creek Boaters,

Suddenly In Command boating safety class offered in the Northern Neck

Suddenly In Command boating safety class offered in the Northern Neck

US Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 33 (Kilmarnock) will be presenting an important boating safety course, SUDDENLY IN COMMAND, in Kilmarnock, VA on Saturday 21 March.  This four-hour short course is primarily aimed at the spouses of boaters who may have a limited knowledge of boat operations and do not know what to do of the vessel’s skipper becomes incapacitated.  This course has the potential to save lives and should be taken by spouses, other family members, and friends of boaters.  This course will have all-female instructors who will cover emergency situations such as: (1) How to handle the boat; (2) How to get help; (3) Communications; (4) How to save your crew; and (5) Handling other emergency situations (engine failure, fires, storms, injuries, person overboard, etc.).

A poster providing details on this course is attached to this email.  Please download, printout this post poster and pass it on to members of your family, neighbors, and friends who may be able to benefit from this course.

If you have any questions on this course or any other local boating course, please get back to me.

David H. Herndon
* Chairman, DCEPA Boating Safety Committee
* US Merchant Marine 100-Ton Coastal Masters License (Power, Sail, Towing)
* US Power Squadrons (Port Captain – Chesapeake/Fleets Bay area)
* US Coast Guard Auxiliary (Vessel Examiner)
* Owner/Master, Wayward Wind (1978 Fisher 25 Motorsailer)

Home/Office: 804-435-2056

Hangtown Fry – David Herndon, upper Dymer

Hangtown Fry

Hangtown Fry for breakfast

Hangtown Fry for breakfast

Hangtown Fry is a gourmet combination of oysters and eggs that originated in California during the gold rush.  It is very easy to prepare.

During the late 1800s, Hangtown (known as Placerville, CA today) was a base of supply for the mining region in California.  It was originally known as Old Dry Diggings (it was called Dry Diggings because the miners had to cart the dry soil down to the running water to wash out the gold), but it was shortly labeled Hangtown after three desperadoes had been hanged there on the same day and from the same giant oak tree.

In 1849, just a short time after Old Dry Diggings had been renamed Hangtown, a prospector rushed into the saloon of the El Dorado Hotel announcing that right there in town, along the banks of Hangtown Creek; he had struck it rich and wanted to celebrate.  Untying his leather poke from his belt, he towed it on the bar where it landed heavily, spilling its shining gold dust and nuggets.  Turning to the bartender he loudly demanded, “I want you to cook me up the finest and most expensive meal in the house.  I’m a rich man and I’m celebrating my good luck.”  The bartender called to the cook and relayed the prospectors order.  The cook stated the most expensive items that he had available were eggs and oysters that both had to be carefully packed and shipped from the coast.  The miner said “scramble them up together and serve ‘em up. I’ve been living on nothing much more than canned beans since I got to California and now I can afford a real meal.”  The cook did just that and Hangtown Fry was born.  In the gold-mining camps in the late1800s, Hangtown Fry became a mark of prosperity for those minors who struck it rich and had plenty of money to spend.  The recipe swept the entire west coast from California to Washington.

In 1949, one hundred years after the origination of Hangtown Fry, E.A. Stephen, Sr., the founder of the Tides Inn in Irvington, VA, brought the Hangtown Fry recipe to the Inn as a breakfast selection.  This breakfast was served for many years at the Inn.  However, with the changes in ownership and chefs, the Inn no longer serves this delicacy.


Hangtown Fry is usually served as a breakfast on the east coast, but on the west coast, it is also served as a dinner.  It’s great either way.

About two servings.

2 whole large eggs (beaten)
4 large (or 6 small )shucked oysters

Sauté oysters in buttered frying pan using moderate heat for about one minute or until the oysters start to curl
Cut large oysters in half (to make bite sized)
Drain off the liquid from the oysters
Add the egg batter and stir it into the oysters
Continue cooking using moderate heat for another minute or two until eggs are properly scrambled

Serve on crisp oven toast (optional, but highly recommended)

Note: The above, simple, easy-to-make recipe is considered to be the original, 1849 Hangtown hangtown-fry-signFry recipe.  Many west coast restaurants have developed and now serve more complex recipes for Hangtown Fry that include adding onions, cream, bacon, bacon bits, peppers, tomatoes, hot sauce, and other ingredients.  These recipes can be found online by typing in, “Hangtown Fry.”  As adding spicy ingredients will mask the delicate flavors of eggs and oysters, most seafood lovers prefer the original Hangtown Fry recipe.

Richard Kirkland

If you pick up a copy of August/September 2014 House & Home you will find out about the life Richard Kirkland cottageand work of our neighbor, Richard Kirkland.

You may know his place: paddle or cruise past his waterfront on the south bank of Dymer Creek and you will be met by mermaids, sculptures, and fanciful relics to intrigue you.

To quote from the jacket of his book, Tales of a War Pilot, “Richard was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, six Air Medals, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. After his military career he was a manager and aerospace executive at Hughes, McDonnell Douglas, and HeliSource. His stories have been published in Air Classics and Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine.”

Kirkland's "Rappahannock Rapture" water sculptureRichard’s stories are compelling and exciting, leaving you awestruck at the breadth of his experience throughout a period of history that encompassed enormous technological change – particularly in war lessons. He is the “Forrest Gump” of our war campaigns’ histories. Gift his Kirkland Creationsbooks to your sons – with wit and understated daring the character revealed is a solitary pilots’ story  – they will grasp it.

Richard and his wife, Maria, and family are often found at the water’s edge on Dymer. Paddle by and say, “Hello.”

More on Richard can be found at



Oyster Wars, 1632–1962

Oyster Pirates  Dredging at Night
“The oyster war! The oyster war!
The strangest sight you ever saw;
The Armada sailing up the Bay,
The oyster pirates for to slay.

They to the Rappahannock turn
To fight like Bruce at Bannockburn
And give the oyster-dredgers fits,
Like Bonaparte at Austerlitz”


Only thirty-eight when elected governor, W.E. Cameron had already been severely wounded at Second Manassas, and again later in a duel.

Only thirty-eight when elected governor, W.E. Cameron had already been severely wounded at Second Manassas, and again later in a duel.

The action that took place at the mouth of the Rappahannock River in February 1882,  while at the heart of comedic verse and satire lampooning Virginia Governor W.E. Cameron, was in reality only a dot on the timeline of the long-running Oyster War of the Chesapeake Bay.

The roots of the Oyster War lie in the land granting policy in the American Colonies under England. In 1632 King Charles I granted all of the Potomac River, and all of the the upper Chesapeake Bay, to Cecil Calvert for the newly established colony of Maryland, an unusual departure from convention. Typically, when two colonies bordered a river, the river was split down the middle, allowing both parties access. Virginia demanded rights to part of Chesapeake Bay as compensation for the loss of rights to the Potomac, and for a time, both parties  suffered an uneasy truce with each colony – and later each state – flexing its political muscle King Charles Ithrough regulation of “their” sections of the tidewater region. The stage was set for the Oyster War.

Battles were waged repeatedly in the Chesapeake Bay as a mark of the inchoate governance of the colonies from England. After the Revolution, the former Colonies were essentially lawless, and the escalating Oyster War clearly demonstrated the need for some organization. The Colonies proposed sending delegates to a Constitutional Convention for the purpose of drafting and approving an American Constitution to create laws which could be used to resolve just such issues.

A method to bring in oysters from the shallower water of the rivers and coves in the Chesapeake Bay.

“Tonging” was an early method to bring in oysters from the shallower water of the rivers and coves in the Chesapeake Bay.

In the 1820′s the nature of the Oyster War shifted and escalated. First New England watermen who had exhausted the oyster beds in their local waters sailed into the Chesapeake, angering Maryland and Virginia watermen who considered the Bay off limits to outsiders. Shots were fired, people were killed. Then Maryland and Virginia watermen went to war with each other. Ultimately watermen from individual counties went to war with watermen of rival counties, each poaching in the others’ rivers as the oyster supplies dwindled.

The perils of oyster tonging on the Chesapeake Bay: Tides, Winds, Storms, Weather, Pirates

The perils of oyster tonging on the Chesapeake Bay: Tides, Winds, Storms, Weather, Pirates

Along with territorial rivalries a new method for collecting oysters known as “dredging” came into favor. This new contraption with its metal teeth, and mesh style basket could be dragged from a sailing vessel and reeled in, yielding a much larger catch with less effort. Violence soon erupted between the oyster-dredging sailboats and the smaller operators of oyster tong boats. It was apparent to all that the beds were quickly being depleted. From a harvest of 15 million bushels in 1884, the number declined by over a third in a mere five years.

Enter the Pirates

German ImmigrantInstead of grappling with each other, Maryland and Virginia found themselves confronting the “Wild West” culture and lawlessness of oyster “pirates”—not just New Englanders migrating down the coast, but also newly freed slaves, whites, and immigrants. Captains commonly shanghaied crewmen from saloons and flophouses and forced them to endure severely deprived conditions working the oyster boats. The crews were well-armed and well-organized and defied the laws equally in Maryland and Virginia.

Maryland had acted early in the 1800′s to limit oyster harvesting to protect beds and Virginia came along in the 1880′s limiting the use of dredging. Oyster pirates, known as the “Mosquito Fleet”, largely ignored the new laws and continued to dredge, mostly under the cover of night. Both states became serious about enforcement of their regulations, but were overmatched and underfunded. To confront pirates each state authorized sea interceptions by a state-funded “Oyster Navy”.

Violence between oystermen escalated, particularly in the vicinity of the Rappahannock River, and several deaths were reported in the Warsaw Northern Neck NewsOyster Poster, January 16, 1880. The efforts of both states’ “oyster navies” were new, untested, a long way from settling the conflict. Furthermore, support among civilians on both sides of the Bay for an unfettered livelihood for the watermen made the matter a political knot.

Oyster War Comes to the Rappahannock

The Victoria J. Peed engaging oyster pirates at the mouth of the Rappahannock River

The Victoria J. Peed engaging oyster pirates at the mouth of the Rappahannock River

On Friday, February 17, 1882, at one o’clock in the morning, the tugboat Victoria J. Peed and the small freighter Louisa, headed out of Norfolk harbor into rough seas and high winds. Their destination was the Rappahannock River and a nest of oyster pirates. Well-armed with three days’ rations and an “abundance of ammunition,” the Louisa carried the troops and militiamen who volunteered from as far away as Richmond. On board the crowded Virginia J. Peed was the Virginia Governor himself, W. E. Cameron.Oyster Dredgers

What would drive a governor of Virginia to personally lead an assault against oyster dredgers in the chilly waters of the Chesapeake? Part of the answer lies in Governor Cameron’s personality. He liked to give a good show, whether in action or in speech, and probably drew inspiration from his acquaintance with Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) while the two worked together on a steamboat in Missouri in 1859.  The Mariners’ Museum

 Local authorities had placed a battery of long-range Whitworth guns at the mouth of the Rappahannock and a company of the Richmond artillery was presumably en route to the scene. All hoped that the oyster dredgers would surrender peacefully when confronted with a show of force more concrete than the vague threats and legal procedures that had gone before.

As the Peed and the Louisa approached the Rappahannock they spotted a sloop and six schooners. These vessels were spread out between Stingray and Windmill Points, and seemed completely unaware of the Louisa and the Peed. Employing a ruse de guerre, Governor Cameron directed the Louisa to act as if “in tow” by the tugboat Victoria J. Peed, and sent all troops below decks. They drew in close enough without detection to attack, and the Louisa was able to block escape. The action led to the conviction of 46 dredgers and the forfeiture of seven oyster boats.

The Second “Oyster War”

Oyster boats in Baltimore Harbor

Oyster boats in Baltimore Harbor

A year later the effort had to be repeated because of reports of some 50 or 60 oyster pirate ships off Smith’s Point. This “Second Oyster War” was embellished in print by an embedded press corps: Governor Cameron was again on the Peed, and welcomed three newspapermen. The other vessel was the steamer Pamlico. On arrival at Smith’s Point only eight oyster schooners were sighted.


“Twenty-four cannon shots were fired and some 300 musket shots….[but] No vessel was hit, though some close shots were made.” wrote a news reporter. None of the oyster schooners fired back, and only one was captured: the Maryland was unable to outrun the Pamlico, although her captain and mate escaped into Maryland waters in a row boat. The frightened seven-man crew surrendered without incident.

Upon their flight, the men on the Pamlico opened fire with musket and cannon, and though the men armed with muskets “had a picnic [they] didn’t bring any gore.”

The Pirate Brides

The second expedition became a joke – fueled by press reports disclosing all the embarrassing details. One such report detailed an encounter when the Pamlico failed to capture a little craft called the Dancing Molly in an inlet close to the Eastern Shore. She appeared to be unmanned:

Thinking to take the unmanned craft as a prize, the crew of the Pamlico bore down upon the vessel. The vessel, though unmanned, was not unwomanned. The captain’s wife and two daughters were still aboard, and when their cries for help went unheard by the crew on shore, they unreefed the sails themselves and made their escape. As the Pamlico raced to block the mouth of the inlet the Dancing Molly strained at its sails to escape. The women were “equal to the emergency.” All three “were skilled in handling the sails and were determined not to be taken.” Despite solid shot flying past them, the three women continued on their way and reaching the open waters of the Bay, easily escaped into Maryland waters with a stiff breeze behind them. According to the Norfolk Virginian of March 4, 1883, spectators along the Virginia shore, though opposed to dredging, “really wished for the safety of the tiny craft when they saw it was simply manned by three women, and when the Dancing Molly got safely out the group of Virginians chivalrously gave three cheers for the pirate’s wife and daughters.”

Moved to song, the pundits framed the story with sardonic mirth:

But tho’ we licked the Pirates bold,
Their pretty wives and daughters
Cannot be beat by all the troops
That sail Utopia’s waters

With fearless hand they guide the prow
That cleaves the rushing tide.
With both our boats we failed to catch
One single Pirate’s bride!

Oyster Women




1947 – from The Washington Post: ‘Already the sound of rifle fire has echoed across the Potomac River. Only fifty miles from Washington men are shooting at one another. The night is quiet until suddenly shots snap through the air. Possibly a man is dead, perhaps a boat is taken, but the oyster war will go on the next night and the next.”

1959 – The Potomac River Fisheries Commissioner H. C. Byrd ordered the fisheries police disarmed after an officer killed a Virginia waterman who was illegally dredging. The move was credited with bringing an end to the violent conflicts. Wikipedia

1962 – President John Kennedy signed the Potomac Fisheries Bill. This bill reaffirms the governing of the Potomac River by a bi-state commission.

2010 – from The Washington Post: This year’s oyster war is being fought with cellphones, glow sticks, fast boats and night-vision technology. March 23, 2010 edition

2011 – from the Daily Press: Worried that Marylanders will buy up precious James River oyster seeds — juvenile oysters referred to as spat — Virginia regulators have taken the unusual step of capping the amount that watermen are allowed to sell. November 4, 2011

2014 – Oyster Wars: “There is no excuse for any amount of oyster poaching, let alone what happened here. A blatant disregard for our fishery is a slap in the face to responsible watermen, and all Marylanders,” said Department of Natural Resources Secretary Joseph P. Gill (upon the arrest of a Virginia truck driver transporting oysters to market).



Growing Your Own Oysters: At a Glance


Oyster gardening is the practice of growing oysters using a cage, either floating or suspended, to raise oysters at your pier.

Oyster gardening is the practice of growing oysters using a cage, either floating or suspended, to raise oysters at your pier.

Five Easy Pieces

This quick look at getting started is adapted from the excellent Virginia Oyster Gardening 2013 guide, which you can download here

1. Pick your site

Your needs are simple: no silt, no strong currents, no high and dry exposure at low tide.

2. Choose a cage

It needs to keep predators out, can be handled (weight) when oysters are grown, and allows a free flow of water through it. There is a list of equipment providers below, and if you are handy, follow the steps in this DIY video:

3.  Be regulated:  Get a permit

The  Abbreviated Joint Permit Application For Noncommercial Ripariaan Shellfish Aquaculture Structures – “Oyster Gardening”  form can be downloaded here.

4. Buy Spat

A little help from a small dock winch can make anyone smile

A little help from a small dock winch can make anyone smile

Oyster seed hatcheries and vendors change from year to year, but the list here can be a start. The Tidewater Oyster Gardeners’ Association keeps an updated list, as does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Oyster Spat

Oyster Spat

5. Set It Up, Keep It Clean, (wait 12-18 months), Enjoy or Donate

Secure your cage(s) to a piling or pier, pull them up and wash them every week or two in the summer (less in the winter), and tie them tight when storms are expected. It’s a good idea to put your name and address on your float, or if necessary pull the float out of the water and store where it is cool and dry – good for a couple of days to ride out a storm.

Oysters grow approximately 2” in length during each growing season. Oysters can be transplanted onto reef sites after just one growing season, or kept to the size desired to eat. —Oysters live for up to 10 years.

Feeling Insecure?

Find your own, personal mentor. The Master Oyster Gardeners program can be your lifeline. Download a list of “MOGs” and approach them on figurative knees. What a service. MasterOysterGardeners_2014

Oyster Gardening Resources, Company, Products, Contact Information

This list is updated to 2014 and is courtesy of the Tidewater Oyster Growers Association. Many thanks to this organization for a great website, full of helpful information

Atlantic Aquaculture Supply, Inc.
Pete Sebring
Aquaculture supplies
86 Tupelo St.
Bristol, RI 02809
FAX 401-253-3334

Capt. Jack’s Seafood Co.
Jack White
Oyster floats, oyster seed and accessories
PO Box 35
New Point, VA 23125

Capt. Tom’s Oyster Floats (2 locations, same products)
Tom Noffsinger
Taylor Floats (2 sizes), Oyster Seed/ 1000 and 500 count, oyster gardening supplies, oyster
gardening “how to” manual
Deltaville,VA  Chesapeake, VA

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Rob Brumbaugh
Oyster donations and education
Tommy Leggett
142 W. York St., Suite 318,
Norfolk, VA 23510

Chesapeake Bay Oyster Company, LLC
Doug McMinn
Oyster equipment, bags,cages,floats, seed oysters
PO Box 96
Wake, VA 23176

Circle C Oyster Ranchers Association, Inc.
Rich Pelz
Covered Taylor Floats, Floating Oyster Reefs, Maryland Oyster Seed (with equipment purchase), Commercial Products and Training for Commercial Producers
49676 Freeman’s Road, Dameron, MD 20628

Eastfield Farms
Peter Perina
Oyster flip float kit $42 [for 1000 oysters], oyster bags and cages, cable ties and hooks , shell bag, and netting by the roll or piece. As a distributor we can offer discount prices for large orders. 25 yrs experience.
PO Box
Mathews, VA 23109

J.C. Walker Brothers Tom and Wade Walker
Seed oysters and clams
Box H
Willis Wharf, VA 23486

Ward Oyster Company
John Vigliotta
Seed oysters

Ocean Products Terry Murphy
Wire mesh, pig rings, ties, synthetic rope, bungee chord
PO Box A1A
Diggs, VA 23045

Rappahannock Oyster Farm
Charlie Ransone
Oyster floats and liners
PO Box 53
Wake, VA 23176

Keith Rodgers
Oyster seed (triploid)
271 Bay Watch Ln.
Reedville,Va. 22539

Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association
Brian Wood, President
PO Box 2463
Gloucester, VA 23061

Virginia Department of Health, Division of Shellfish Sanitation
Miller Smith
PO Box 241
White Stone, VA 22578

Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Karen Hudson Advisory services
PO Box 1346
Gloucester Point, VA 23062

Virginia Marine Resources Commission
Jim Wesson, Chip Neikirk Permits
2600 Washington Ave – 3rd Floor
Newport News, VA 23607

Jett’s Hardware
18425 Northumberland Hwy.
Cages and cage building supplies
Reedville Va. 22539

Oyster Floats by Chesapeake River Restorations
Self Cleaning Oyster Lodge oyster floats for oyster gardening.


Oyster Lore and Benefits

OysterInHandLegend has it that Captain John Smith, upon first seeing the Chesapeake Bay, described it as being so rich in marine life that all a crew member had to do was to put a skillet overboard to catch the evening’s dinner. Among the marine riches of the Bay was the American or Atlantic oyster. As recently as 100 years ago oyster reefs were so massive that they posed a hazard to ships. In fact, a Swiss writer by the name of Michel wrote in 1701:

The abundance of oysters is incredible. There are whole banks of them so that the ships must avoid them. A sloop, which was to land us at Kingscreek, struck an oyster bed, where it had to wait about two hours for the tide. They surpass those in England by far in size, indeed they are four times as large. I often cut them in two before I could put them in my mouth.

 Today, the Chesapeake is thought to support only one percent of its historic oyster population and oyster harvests are less than four percent of the harvest highs recorded as recently as the 1950s.

Hard Working Bivalves

  • A single mature oyster can filter up to 55 gallons of water per day
  • Oysters remove silt and sediment from the water and serve as a wonderful habitat for other marine species
  • When the oyster population was thriving (83 billion oysters), they could actually filter the entire Chesapeake Bay in just 3.3 days. It now takes over 700 days to do the same thing…
  • A healthy oyster population also helps other species thrive, some of which include blue crabs and rockfish, among others
  • Healthy oyster populations when combined with other plantings can make for excellent shoreline stabilizers, which helps to combat erosion

To Eat or Not to Eat

Six fried oysters weigh in at 175 calories

Six fried oysters weigh in at 175 calories

On a diet?  Six fried oysters = 175 calories. It’s hard to hold back: from 1990 to 1995 Americans ate about fifty million pounds of oysters; two BILLION pounds worldwide.

Oysters contain a whole raft of vitamins, including C, D, B1, B1, B2 and B3. In terms of valuable minerals, if you eat just four medium-size oysters every day, you’ll get the recommended daily allowances of calcium, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.

What’s Not to Love?

Archeologists have discovered that human consumption of oysters dates at least to  Neanderthal times. The ancient Romans prized oysters for being aphrodisiacs. The 18th-century lover Casanova, in particular, is said to have eaten fifty oysters for breakfast every morning to make him virile. Could be true: zinc is found in oysters ~ zinc deficiency is linked to impotency. Or it could have been those rare amino acids that kept him frisky. Skeptics may leave their comments below…

What About the “R” Words?

January, February, March, April, … uh oh…  September, October, November, December…

The American Indian is said to have started this warning. The meat of the oyster becomes thicker when the water temperatures cool down in the fall of the year. When oysters spawn in the warmer months they tend to become thin and not as tasty. But, thanks to aquaculture, oysters can be, and are, enjoyed twelve months of the year. Local aquaculture methods produce healthy, clean oysters by growing them up off of the bottom.

Rappahannock River Gold

“But on their own, with the most evanescent of wines, they can be delicacy itself—a lesson in the pleasure of minimalism.” Rowan Jacobsen on Rappannock River oysters in A Geography of Oysters: The Connoisseur’s Guide to Oyster Eating in North America

If you are passionate about oysters you know the name Rowan Jacobsen and his seven books on oysters. His website,, is for the connoisseur and lists the Rappahannock as a famous oyster river for centuries—the sine qua non in oyster circles. He continues

Once upon a time, the Chesapeake Bay was the Napa VOystersBayMapalley of oysters. Oysters flourished so thickly along its fractured coasts and warm waters that they presented a shipping hazard, and they grew plump and sweet—famously sweet. For two centuries the local oystermen ransacked it with the control and forethought people have always used with “inexhaustible” resources—which is to say, none. Today, there are virtually no more wild oysters to harvest. All the best Chesapeake oysters come from aquaculture operations in Virginia.


If you are interested in how the “Rapps” stack up, or desire to become a true ostreaphile, check out Chow’s graphic on the best of the best:  A Dozen Oysters You Should Know

Chesapeake Bay Dead Zones

Hypoxia (Dead Zone)

Less oxygen dissolved in the water is often referred to as a “dead zone” because most marine life either dies, or, if they are mobile such as fish, leave the area. Habitats that would normally be teeming with life become, essentially, biological deserts.  The Chesapeake Bay suffers from summer bouts of hypoxia caused when excess nitrogen and phosphorus, chiefly from fertilizer runoff and sewage plants, feed “blooms” of microscopic algae too numerous to be eaten by other creatures. The algae die and decompose in a process that hogs oxygen.

Over half of the U.S. estuaries now experience natural or human-induced hypoxic conditions at some time each year and evidence suggests that the frequency and duration of hypoxic events have increased over the last few decades.

How the dead zone forms. Courtesy of The Times Picayune, 2007

How the dead zone forms. Courtesy of The Times Picayune, 2007

Scientists expect the Chesapeake Bay to see an above-average dead zone this summer, due to the excess nitrogen that flowed into the Bay from the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers this spring.  More here…   and   here…

Harmful Algae Blooms

"Red tide" is the term to describe an algae bloom

“Red tide” is a term applied to algae bloom

Harmful algae blooms (HAB) are associated with and symptomatic of dead zone conditions. If you have observed a patch of water that is colored red or mahogany you should contact Virginia’s toll-free HAB hotline at (888) 238-6154 in order to help track and quantify the problem.

HABs can be toxic to aquatic life such as fish, oysters and crabs, and they block sunlight from reaching bay grasses growing at the bottom of the creeks and inlets. “Red Tides” can also cause skin irritation or other sickness to people who come into contact with them. Your pets are not immune: it might be a good idea to keep your dogs on the dock.

How to Shuck an Oyster

Learn from a champion. Deborah Pratt, of nearby Urbanna, is a four-time world oyster shucking champion. She shares her technique in detail in this video and talks about presentation of the finest oysters anywhere.


Deborah Pratt introduces herself at the Urbanna waterfront.


Deborah and her sister Clementine talk about their history, their families, and Walton Seafood of Urbanna. This was prepared by the Southern Foodways Alliance as part of the oral history project.

Letter from DCEPA on Oyster Gardening

Dear Dymer Creek Residents:

The Dymer Creek Environmental Preservation Association is encouraging all creek residents to apply for oyster gardening permits.  The permit is free and authorizes you to use the waters near your property to grow oysters for your own use, but it does not allow you to sell these oysters commercially. Growing oysters will improve the water quality of the creek because oysters filter particles out of the water…one adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day! This filtering process clarifies the creek water which promotes underwater vegetation growth essential for a healthy habitat for finfish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals.

Oyster gardening can be easily done by planting baby oysters (“spat” or “seed”) on floating platforms, in bags, or in cages near your shoreline or attached to your dock.  Equipment and “starter” oysters are all locally available. If you intend to eat your oysters, it is recommended to buy sterile (triploid) spat because these oysters grow faster and are better quality. If you intend to grow oysters specifically to cleanse the creek, it is advised to use fertile (diploid) spat because you can place the adult oysters on your bank or near your pier, and they will continue to spawn and populate the area with young fertile oysters. Please be advised that some areas of our creek have been designated as “contaminated” so any oysters you intend to consume from your oyster garden should be cooked before eating.

Another benefit of being an oyster gardening permit holder is that you are registered with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), which shows that you care about the quality of the water adjacent to your property. Recording the locations of oyster gardens makes it possible for the VMRC to get a better estimate of how many oysters are in State waters and their impact on water quality. This will be important to the VMRC when they are asked to consider permits for activities on our creek.  Oyster gardening permits all around our creek may help us defeat other projects like the proposed boat ramp on Simmons Cove.

The most helpful website on oyster gardening is:  On this site, you will find the Virginia Oyster Gardening Guide, which gives a comprehensive explanation of the benefits of oyster gardening with detailed instructions about the mechanics and costs of starting your own oyster garden. You will also find the Oyster Gardening Permit (General Permit #3 or “The Abbreviated Joint Permit Application for Noncommercial Riparian Shellfish Aquaculture Structures”) which you can complete and mail to the VMRC at no cost. Questions about this application can be directed to the VMRC Engineering/Surveying Department at 757-247-2225.

If you own 205 linear feet or more of shoreline, you may qualify for a riparian oyster ground lease. Information related to applying for this type of lease may be obtained from the VMRC Engineering/Surveying Department at 757-247-2225. Once established, this lease allows you to own the oyster planting ground adjacent to your property. This planting ground becomes part of your deed and can be passed on at the sale or inheritance of your property.  The application fee is $25, and the processing and surveying fees may add up to over $700.

Please let the DCEPA know if you have submitted an application for an oyster gardening permit. This information will help us in our efforts to improve the water quality of Dymer Creek.

Wendy Smith

If you have questions, please contact
Dave Herndon            or          Wendy Smith
804-761-0409                           703-209-8068