A program for restoration of the public oyster grounds at the mouth of the Rappahannock River was initiated by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2000. Responding to pressure from harvesters, the state developed a management strategy that allows commercial harvest from some of these grounds while maintaining the development of a potentially disease tolerant broodstock population in nonharvested sanctuaries. To assess this management plan, a STELLA model of the oyster fishery that links the biological system, the state management program and harvest effort was developed. The model portrays one area open to harvest once every three years. One sector of the model shows the effects of the state's program of enhancing natural productivity by shelling and maintaining sanctuaries of broodstock oysters. High natural mortality rates caused by disease and predation are shown to severely reduce the number of juveniles that reach maturity in the population growth sector. In the harvest sector, one half of the mature oysters are taken during the open season as tends to be the case in this fishery. Whereas revenue net of harvester costs is found to be positive in some scenarios, including management policies such as restricting the number of vessels, limiting the season, revenue net of state costs and revenue net of both costs are always negative. The management program is not justified by purely monetary returns. Recovery of the public oyster grounds using the native species is thus of doubtful value without a truly disease tolerant strain or the presence of some nonmonetary benefits of native oyster population increase.
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Vol. 28 • No. 2