Virginia's Eastern Shore

Nassawadox Creek kayakers © At Altitude Gallery- 695x352

A team of early morning kayakers navigates Nassawadox Creek, a Chesapeake Bay tributary on Virginia's Eastern Shore.

Gordon Campbell/

The Eastern Shore of Virginia's waters have ebbed and flowed with the tide for ages. For centuries, Shore residents have depended on the bounty of the fish, crabs, oysters, and fowl in the many creeks, marshes, and the Chesapeake Bay. Today the rural Eastern Shore is the epicenter of Virginia's oyster and clam aquaculture industry and is known by visitors and locals for its tranquil beauty.

Key Issues on Virginia's Eastern Shore

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has long worked on local issues important to the Shore. Key among these are:

  • Poultry: The Eastern Shore's poultry industry has expanded rapidly, leading to increased pollution risks to waterways. CBF is pushing for strong permits for poultry operations and stiff penalties for pollution violations. Following feedback from CBF, Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality is undertaking runoff monitoring at several poultry operations to better understand impacts to water quality. After strong public feedback, Virginia also increased penalties for serious water quality violations at the Tyson poultry plant in Temperanceville.
  • Aquaculture: Oysters and clams clean our waters and their fisheries are critical to the local economy. We have supported aquaculture expansion and modernization, served on the Virginia Governor's panel to reduce conflicts with the aquaculture industry, and supported legislation benefitting aquaculture.
  • Offshore drilling: Drilling for oil and gas off Virginia's Eastern Shore would pose unjustifiable risks to the Chesapeake Bay, our coast, and the region's economy. We are working with communities and elected officials up and down the Shore and across Virginia to oppose proposals for offshore drilling and seismic testing.
  • Groundwater: CBF has advocated for the poultry industry to use water from the more sustainable Columbia aquifer rather than continue unrestricted withdrawals that threaten the Yorktown aquifer, where most Shore residents get their drinking water. Excessive groundwater withdrawals can also intensify threats from sea level rise. 
  • Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint: We are working with Virginia officials and stakeholders on this plan to vastly improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries. The proposed plan will allow Virginia to meet its commitments to reduce pollution by 2025 and help ensure future generations can enjoy the Shore's way of life. 
  • Restoration: Across Virginia's Eastern Shore, CBF has planted buffers of trees and plants along waterways, reduced polluted runoff from developed areas, and more. 

Get Involved on the Shore

We offer numerous opportunities for local Shore residents to participate in saving the Bay.

  • Oyster Gardening: CBF oyster gardeners raise oysters for restoration from their own docks or at local marinas. CBF will hold an oyster gardening workshop in Wachapreauge on Tuesday, June 18.
  • Clean the Bay Day: We will hold this annual major shoreline cleanup across Virginia on the morning of June 1. Every year, volunteers pick up huge amounts of litter at Eastern Shore locations spanning from Kiptopeke State Park to Bloxom. 
  • CBF Clean Water Captains: These dedicated volunteers act as advocates and ambassadors for clean water in their own communities. 
  • Environmental Education: CBF runs two education facilities on Bay islands just off Virginia's Eastern Shore. Shore educators and students board CBF vessels at Onancock to travel to Port Isobel Environmental Education Center near Tangier and the Fox Island Environmental Education Center in Pocomoke Sound. We also educate adults at these sites, including key decisionmakers, farmers, and other partners in restoring the Bay. 
  • "Slurp and Learn" Events: We will be holding an educational event on the Eastern Shore this fall featuring local oysters, clams, beer, and a discussion about oyster restoration efforts in the Bay, led by restoration scientists and oyster farmers. 

CBF's Virginia Voices Outreach Coordinator Jay Ford, based in Accomack County, is a tireless advocate for clean water in the region. Jay focuses on Eastern Shore issues and works with CBF staff throughout the Commonwealth and Maryland. Before joining CBF, he served as the Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper. He lives in Accomack County. You can contact him at 757-971-2600 or [email protected].

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