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Shellfish Aquaculture Continues Growth

Virginia’s shellfish growers sold 28.1 million oysters and 171 million clams in 2012, according to an annual survey of shellfish aquaculture operations in the state. Those numbers represent a 21 percent increase in oyster sales, while clam sales have remained fairly stable over the past few years. The “Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report” has been produced annually by

Shellfish Aquaculture: Clams. ©Kathryn Greves/VASG

Clams. ©Kathryn Greves/VASG

By Margaret Pizer

Virginia’s shellfish growers sold 28.1 million oysters and 171 million clams in 2012, according to an annual survey of shellfish aquaculture operations in the state. Those numbers represent a 21 percent increase in oyster sales, while clam sales have remained fairly stable over the past few years.

The “Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report” has been produced annually by Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Virginia Sea Grant since 2005. The report’s authors, Karen Hudson and Tom Murray of VIMS, say that the stability in clam sales is good news after a slight dip in production in 2009 and 2010. The estimated total rev­enue for Virginia hard clam aquaculturists in 2012 was $26.8 million—a slight increase from 2011. Virginia remains the largest aquacultured clam producer in the nation.

Hudson and Murray suggest that the continued growth in oyster aquaculture stems mainly from continuing expansion of “spat-on-shell” or “extensive” culture. This method involves allowing oyster larvae to settle on old oyster shells in large tanks, planting the resulting spat or seed oysters in the field almost immediately, and allowing them to grow into clumps of oysters that are harvested for sale as shucked meat. The survey began distinguishing seed sales from eyed larvae sales in 2010, and after a dip attributed to water quality problems in 2011, 2012 eyed larvae sales were up 20 percent over those from 2010.

The full report is available at http://www.vims.edu/research/units/centerspartners/map/aquaculture/docs/MRR2013_02.pdf.