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Landing oysters at the Kellum Docks in Virginia. (Photo Credit: Kellum Seafood Company)

Virginia expects record oyster harvest since 1988

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Friday, August 16, 2013, 03:30 (GMT + 9)

The state of Virginia is consolidating as a leading oyster harvester: official sources predict the current season to be the biggest ever in the past 25 years.

Preliminary figures show over 320,000 bushels have been caught this season, representing a 28 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, reports the Daily Press.

Official reports reveal that the state of Virginia harvested oysters for a value of USD 575,000 in 2001 whereas by 2011, the dockside value reached USD 11.2 million.

During a tour of Kellum Seafood Company facilities, an oyster harvesting, packing and shucking plant in Weems, Virginia, the state’s Governor, Robert F. McDonnell, highlighted the "remarkable strides" achieved by the oyster industry in Virginia and said that there are indications that this year’s harvest may be the best in the past quarter-century.

"Good management has allowed us to put our excellent oysters on dinner tables around the world, to create good jobs for our citizens and to bring new revenue into our state. And we’re on pace for even more growth in the oyster industry.  As oyster companies like Kellum Seafood continue to grow, they know they’ve got a friend in Richmond. Working with the General Assembly, we’re laser focused on putting in place policies that help job-creators like Tommy Kellum continue to expand their operations, and employ more Virginians in the process,” said the governor.

For his part, Tommy Kellum, current partner and vice-president of Kellum Seafood was happy to point out the growth of the local oyster industry and its bright prospects.

Michael Oesterling, executive director of the Shellfish Growers of Virginia, also welcomed the industry growth. As an example, he said that in 2005 the state grew and sold less than one million farmed oysters while in 2012 the figures had jumped to 28 million.

Another important aspect of the local oyster industry is the artificial replenishment of oyster shells from the James River, initiative for which the state has already made an investment of USD 2 million. The project will create thousands of local jobs and will provide an important boost to the industry.

“While some of these oyster replenishment shells went onto our oyster sanctuaries, the majority went onto our new rotational oyster harvest areas, meaning they will be untouched for several years as they grow to adulthood and spawn a new generation of oysters before they can be harvested,” commented Virginia Marine Resources Commissioner Jack Travelstead. “It is important they be harvested at that point because otherwise they are susceptible to two diseases, Dermo and MSX, which kill adult oysters. We don’t want to see these oysters wasted to disease.”

Virginia is the biggest producer of seafood products in the US East Coast and it is the third most important seafood producer in the United States.

Related article:

- Millions of baby oysters will aid restock Chesapeake banks

By Gabriela Raffaele


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