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Oyster harvest best since 1985

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From left, Bernon Rowe, captain of the J.B. Baylor, Governor Bob McDonnell and Dr. Jim Wesson of VMRC look over oysters dredged from the Drumming Ground in the Rappahannock River on August 14. (Photo by Larry Chowning)

by Larry Chowning

During an August 14 trip to Lancaster County, Governor Bob McDonnell announced that preliminary 2012-13 oyster harvest figures show Virginia’s commercial oystermen caught 320,000 bushels, with a dockside value of $11.2 million.

Just over 10 years ago the figures were a dismal 20,000 bushels with a market value of $575,000. Not since 1985, when 500,000 bushels were harvested, has there been a season when this many Virginia oysters were caught.

“Virginia’s oyster industry has made remarkable strides, and indications are this year’s harvest may be the best we’ve seen in the past quarter-century,” said McDonnell. “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.

Recently, Governor McDonnell and the Virginia General Assembly appropriated $2 million for oyster replenishment this summer. Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) mined fossil oyster shells from the James River, mixed it with available oyster shells from shucking houses such as Kellum Seafood, and planted roughly one billion individual shells on public grounds. Shells are a natural clutch that oyster larvae attach to when spawning, which enhances the growth of oysters to adulthood.

As part of the tour, the Governor and others were taken to the Rappahannock River aboard the VMRC research vessel J.B. Baylor. Equipped with a dredge, the crew made one grab off the river bottom and brought up numerous market-size oysters. The presentation was on public oyster grounds called the Drumming Ground, off the mouth of Carters Creek.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 08.21.2013

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