2020 was supposed to be Rogue Oysters’ year.
The four-year-old enterprise founded by husband-wife duo Taryn Brice-Rowland and Aaron Rowland in the Northern Neck community of Lancaster had already taken a hit early in its life when record-breaking rains swept through Virginia in 2018, diluting the salty waters where the bivalve thrives and wiping out that year’s crop.
But the pair persisted, beginning again the laborious two-year process of raising oysters from seed to shell. They started selling to other oyster businesses that supplied restaurants through the wholesale market and laid plans to break into direct restaurant sales themselves. This year they finally hired their first employee, with a planned start date in April.
Then the new coronavirus hit.Recreational sailors and boaters combat DNR restrictions
“Our orders basically stopped in early March,” said Brice-Rowland. Now, she said, “We have 300,000 oysters in the water right now that may not ever find a home we intended for them. We’ll have to find a way to get rid of them.”
Rogue Oysters isn’t alone in that predicament. All up and down the coasts and waterways of Virginia, where John Smith once reported the oysters “lay as thick as stones,” the farmers who cultivate this prized marine resource are faced with a tough predicament. The oysters they’ve raised are piling up, but there’s nowhere for them to go.
Craig Ligibel, 72, who lives off the South River and is a sailboat and powerboat owner, sent a letter to Hogan this week in response to the “stay at home” order the governor put in place on March 30. Ligibel believes the Department of Natural Resources ban on recreational boating "does not treat all who enjoy Maryland’s waterways equally.”
“First of all, this is a grassroots effort by a sailor who has no affiliation with a yacht club or an organization. I’m just a guy who has spent hundreds of days on the water in the past seven years since we moved here,” Ligibel said. “My sense was whoever drew up the regulations with the ‘stay at home’ order as it pertains to recreational boating didn’t treat sailors with the same depth of knowledge as he might have with respect to the fishermen."
The ban on boating from the Hogan administration has a curious loophole. Charter fishing services are allowed to take up to ten people, once the recreational season is open, providing proper "social distancing" is maintained. This is curious. It's going to be very difficult to maintain social distancing, and lack of contamination on a relatively small boat, where everybody has to touch the same surfaces. I believe this reflects Hogan's long standing support from and interest in the commercial fishing business. While I generally support Hogan, this is one of his less appealing aspects.
Ligibel did not want to leave the impression he represents a “bunch of elitists” that want to go out sailing while other people are under stress.
"The point is: if someone is allowed to go out fishing or in a charter boat situation, or a paddle board or kayak situation, why shouldn’t someone be able to walk down to his dock, get in his boat and go sailing by himself or with his daughter or with his grandson,” Ligibel said.
Ligibel wrote in his letter to Governor Hogan: “A sailor on a small boat with a crew of his/her family of no more than four people is less likely to transmit the COVID-19 virus than someone who is standing in line at a local hardware store to buy mulch or tomato plants and/or an individual who is picking up a case of wine at a liquor store. These activities are permitted. Sailing is not.”
The Wombat has Rule 5 Tuesday: Easter Komi up a day late at The Other McCain.