The current project builds on data sets generated by the joint VMRC-VIMS oyster stock assessment and monitoring program that was initiated in 1993. This data has recently been consolidated in a single database. This facilitates the calculations necessary to develop live oysters, shell status and shell budget descriptors for all the monitored reef systems in the Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay. A single analysis approach can now be applied uniformly to historical and future data. Given that all data are geo-referenced the depiction of analysis products in GIS layers is tractable, so updating of the VOSARA web site is facilitated. In the following text we provide a historical inventory of oyster populations and shell data for all assessed sites, to describe decade plus trends, and to present these in both text/table and graphical formats on our web pages. The text of this document also forms the base of the metadata descriptions for the data and analysis to be displayed on the web site. In order, the following text describes methods of data collection and analysis including a discussion of associated limitations, then progresses to description of the oyster and shell resources with commentary on shell budgets and future analysis and research needs.
The stock assessment surveys were originally designed to support proactive and sustainable management of the public oyster resource in Virginia. The general details of the fishery supported by this resource are given in Chapter 4VAC20-720-10 et seq. of the Code. These are revised and updated annually (or more often as required) following management actions of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). The proverbial footprint of the survey are the public oyster grounds as first comprehensively surveyed by Baylor (1896) – hence their common description as “Baylor Grounds.” The surveys were updated by Haven at al. (1981) as part of a comprehensive survey of the Virginia Oyster industry. See current map. The public grounds are open to fishing for market oysters (> 3 inches, 76mm shell length) from October through April of the following year. Areas may be opened and closed on a rotation plan (see for example the Rappahannock River record within VOSARA. The annual limitations on opening and closing of specific areas, allowed gear type, daily time limits and catch limits by bushel volume, and more (as required) are defined by VMRC as regulation updates. See current harvest regulations.