Nelson Marshall

Document Type



Virginia Institute of Marine Science

Publication Date



Virginia Journal of Science





First Page


Last Page



The intent of the Baylor Survey of 1892 was to define the naturally producing oyster grounds in Virginia waters and to set them aside for public use. Actually, some natural ground was omitted and some barren ground was included within the bounds of the Survey; however, it stands as a definition of public grounds from which any citizen of the State may, for a small fee, obtain a license to take oysters. Only hand tongs are permitted in this public fishery.

These oyster bars within the Baylor Snrvey are about twice as extensive as the ground outside leased to private planters but they yield only about one-third as many oysters of market size ( Marshall, 1951). On the other hand, certain of these public grounds provide the seed or small oysters that are transplanted to private grounds and are essential to the success of leased bottoms which are seldom self-sustaining. Based on this relationship an extensive area in the lower James River (Figure I) noted for i,s capacity to produce great numbers of small oysters, has been established by law as a seed area. This area is not subject to the usual regulation that oysters must remain on public grounds till they grow to marketable size. Tongers harvest and sell to private planters from one to two million bushels of seed oysters from this James River area annually. Actually each such bushel is a mixture of small seed oysters, the old shell to which the seed have attached, and a small quantity of oysters of marketable size.