RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Glenn Youngkin has proclaimed November as Virginia Oyster Month to recognize the importance of the industry and the hard work and dedication of the Commonwealth’s oyster producers. Oyster farming, also known as aquaculture, is a booming industry. The average dockside value for Virginia’s wild and farmed oysters is annually around $40 million.
“In addition to being one of the largest seafood producing states in the nation and first on America’s Atlantic Coast in seafood landings, Virginia is number one on the East Coast in oyster production,” said Matthew Lohr, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “The Virginia oyster industry is one of the longest-standing industries in the state. From providing bountiful meals for Virginia’s first inhabitants, the industry thrives today with jobs for many Virginia families which helps to support local economies.”
“Virginia produces the best oysters in the world, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the commercial watermen harvesting the public ground oysters, and the farmers on the aquaculture side growing oysters. The Eastern oyster, also known as the Virginia oyster, is not only a delicious food but also an important filter for the Chesapeake Bay,” said Joseph Guthrie, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. “I encourage Virginia residents and visitors to show their appreciation of our oyster producers by enjoying fresh wild-caught and farm-raised Virginia oysters.”
Oysters are a critical component of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. A single adult oyster can purge 50 gallons of water a day. Gardening and farming oysters reduces harvest pressure on wild stocks, and increases the overall number of shellfish that help clean the water and serve as habitat for other marine life.
Virginia has eight different regions of oysters each with their own unique taste based on saltiness, buttery or creaminess, and sweetness. Oysters directly reflect the place and take their tastes from the location where they are cultured. The Commonwealth’s coastal waters include a range of salinities from the briny Atlantic to the sweet water on the western shore of Virginia’s upper Chesapeake Bay and all combinations in between. The dynamic nature of the state’s tidal waters also influences the flavors of an oyster from the same location throughout the year. Oysters from the same grower can be different every time you enjoy them. The regional flavor guide for Virginia Aquaculture Oysters can help consumers choose the right oyster for their taste.
VDACS encourages all Virginia residents to enjoy fresh, Virginia Grown oysters during November and all year long. Virginia Oysters are available in a wide variety of market forms from raw, in the shell, to shucked meats in a variety of sizes. Contact local retailers, wholesalers, distributors, growers, and restaurants for availability in your area. For more information about Virginia oysters, visit www.virginiaoysters.org.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS