Virginia’s oyster population continues surge

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There’s good news for oyster fans: last year’s Virginia oyster harvest was the largest in the commonwealth since 1987.

Virginia’s oyster harvest grew 25 percent in 2013 to 504,000 bushels.

Harvesting from public oyster grounds grew 42 percent to 213,152 bushels last year, while the harvest at privately leased growing areas grew 12.6 percent to 290,961 bushels.

The state has been undergoing an oyster replenishment program to save Virginia’s oyster population, which dwindled to 23,000 bushels in 2001. The Virginia Marine Resources Commission’s program includes rotational oyster harvest areas and the deployment of fossil oyster shells from under the James River to public oyster grounds. These shells become home for oyster larvae that attach to them during spawning.

Oysters themselves do their part to help clean the Chesapeake Bay. Each oyster can filter up to 50,000 gallons of water a day, according to the commission.

“State investments in our oyster replenishment program are showing positive results,” Molly Joseph Ward, Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, said in a statement. “Keeping this momentum is vital to the growth of the oyster industry. Our comprehensive fisheries management programs, combined with private sector investments, are having a very positive impact for the Bay, consumers and the economy. We need to keep moving forward.”

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