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Seafood industry expands with Virginia operations

virginia-blue-oversizeGov. Bob McDonnell today welcomed the first landing of Atlantic deep sea red crab to Virginia via a joint venture between Massachusetts-based Atlantic Red Crab Company and Virginia-based L.D. Armory Co., Inc., and Graham & Rollins, Inc.  Earlier today, the F/V Hannah Boden, a fishing vessel made famous in the motion picture, The Perfect Storm, delivered the inaugural catch to L.D Armory in Hampton.  Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore attended the landing on behalf of the governor and in support of Virginia’s seafood industry, the third largest in the nation.

Commenting on the expansion of the Virginia seafood industry, Governor McDonnell stated, “From Hong Kong to Paris to right here at home, Virginia has long been known for having some of the highest quality seafood products in the world.  The harvesting of deep sea red crabs off the coast will enhance our already sterling reputation and provide more outstanding seafood choices for our citizens. Just as important, the new partnership between Atlantic Red Crab, L.D. Armory, and Graham & Rollins will provide more economic opportunities now and in the future.  I congratulate the companies on this new venture, and I welcome Atlantic Red Crab to Virginia, the best state in the nation in which to conduct business, especially seafood business.”

Hampton-based L.D. Armory, which founded in 1917, and Graham & Rollins, which was started in 1942, have produced fresh, top quality seafood for generations.  Atlantic Red Crab Company is based in New Bedford, Massachusetts and operates a fleet of four vessels that land between four and five million pounds of Atlantic deep sea red crab on an annual basis.  According to the companies, the F/V Hannah Boden will be delivering approximately 10,000 pounds of Atlantic deep sea red crabs on a weekly basis starting in July when the vessel relocates to Hampton.  Prior to starting the business venture, the Virginia companies and Atlantic Red Crab worked with Virginia Tech’s Seafood Agricultural Research and Extension Center, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Virginia Sea Grant on various scientific and economic issues related to quality of the crabs and feasibility of operations.

Atlantic deep sea red crabs, certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, are harvested off the coast between the Canadian border and North Carolina at a depth of 2,000 feet where the water temperature remains constant at approximately 38 degrees Fahrenheit.  The crabs, which are harvested year-round and managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service under a quota system, are known for their sweet tasting white meat and bright orange shell.  Average size range between 5 and 7 inches across the back of the shell and they weigh between and 1 and 2 pounds at harvest maturity.  The crabs are delivered dockside live and available to consumers at Graham & Rollins Seafood Market in Hampton.

The Virginia seafood industry is one of the oldest industries in the United States and one of the Commonwealth’s largest.  According to the Virginia Marine Products Board, the marketing arm of Virginia’s seafood industry, Virginia is the nation’s third largest producer of marine products, behind only Alaska and Louisiana, with total landings of almost 495 million pounds in 2011, the most recent year with full economic data. The dockside value from these landing to watermen alone was just under $192 million.

Agriculture, under which Virginia seafood industry falls, and forestry are Virginia’s largest industries, with a combined economic impact of $79 billion annually:  $55 billion from agriculture and $24 billion from forestry.  The industries also provide approximately 500,000 jobs in the Commonwealth according to the Weldon Cooper for Public Service at the University of Virginia.

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