Virginia’s Working Waterways

Lyle Solla-Yates, Bacon’s Rebellion’s summer intern, has filed the following report:

A vital piece of Virginia’s heritage — the lively commercial fishing and boating community — is threatened by coastal development, environmental stress and foreign imports. Last week, representatives of government, nonprofit, and industry representatives met in Norfolk to discuss threats to working waterways across the nation and how to respond.

Commercial and recreational boating has suffered a series of setbacks in the last century. Environmental problems from runoff pollution, destruction of wetlands, and over fishing have greatly reduced potential catches in the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, imports of fish from foreign countries that subsidize their fishing fleets have driven seafood prices down. High end condominiums and other development have crowded out active waterfronts in favor of private coastal access for those who can afford it.

The net result has been lost jobs, greater dependence upon foreigners for our food supply, an unsustainable trade imbalance, and a loss of cultural and historic heritage.

Government and civic leaders discussed how to reinvigorate waterfronts in Virginia and across the country. High property taxes and burdensome environmental regulations were a consistent target, creating calls for tax and regulatory reform. Some called for moratoria on coastal development. Communities could use the time to update master plans emphasizing preservation of working waterfronts. Seafood festivals and boating tours were suggested as effective ways to get people out enjoying the waterfront, having a good time and learning the issues threatening our waterways.

The Working Waterways & Waterfronts 2007 Symposium website can be found here: Information for this article is drawn from their final report, which I assisted in collecting.

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One response to “Virginia’s Working Waterways”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    Certainly we are not going to have any working waterfront if we turn it all into high end condos, and even condo boat slips, for chrissakes.

    Even boat yards that actually work on boats are getting rare. More and more often, the usual deal is that the marina hauls your boat, and puts it on a truck to be shipped to a workyard inland….Waterfront is too valuable to actually work from.

    And where do you suppose “burdensome environmental regulations” strike home first? Is it to handsome waterfront condos with attached boat slips full of handsome yachts, or is it to the crab shack with a few floats full of peelers?

    I can’t see that recreational boating has suffered any kind of setback. Commercial, yes.

    “Seafood festivals and boating tours were suggested as effective ways to get people out enjoying the waterfront, having a good time and learning the issues threatening our waterways.”

    I can’t think of anything that would make me vomit faster than bad oysters, unless it is this kind of tripe.

    If you want to preserve working waterways, then go down to the wterfront and buy some crabs off the boat – and pay for them the same price you would at the market.


    Profits is what preserves working waterfronts, and working farms. Even if the waterfront or farm happens also to be pleasurable.

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