Virginia aquaculture value higher than ever

The value of Virginia aquaculture reached an all-time high in 2013. Credit: VIMS The value of Virginia aquaculture reached an all-time high in 2013. Credit: VIMS

According to a survey of shellfish aquaculture conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and Virginia Sea Grant, Virginia’s shellfish growers sold an estimated 31 million single oysters and 214.4 million clams in 2013 for a farm-gate value of $45.1 million - an all-time high.

The survey numbers represent a 10% increase in oyster sales and a 25% increase in clam sales since 2012. While the increase in oyster sales continues a long-term trend of growth, the increase in clam sales represents year-to-year variation in a steady industry.

The report’s authors, Karen Hudson and Tom Murray of the Marine Advisory Services program at VIMS, say that this year’s report shows that the shellfish industry is healthy.

Hatchery production remains critical to the continued growth of both intensive and extensive oyster aquaculture. Ms Hudson says that the industry is taking proactive steps to improve hatchery operations to supply the demand for young oysters that can grow out into marketable adults.

“There’s been a concerted effort by hatcheries and scientists to work together to ensure consistent production in the face of ever-changing environmental conditions,” says Ms Hudson. This effort comes in response to water-quality issues that hampered production in 2011. Since then, says Ms Hudson, all indicators for continued growth of oyster aquaculture and consistent production in clams remain positive for the future.

The Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report has been produced annually since 2005. The 2013 results are drawn from 80 completed surveys returned to VIMS. Respondents include 21 clam growers, 67 oyster growers, 15 clam and oyster growers, and 5 shellfish hatcheries. 

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