Census: Virginia aquaculture sales topped $55 million last year

virginia-newVirginia is home to nearly 120 commercial aquaculture operations that saw a total of $55.6 million in sales last year. Among them were 17 operations selling crustaceans—soft-shell crabs, freshwater prawns and saltwater shrimp; 26 operations selling food fish like hybrid striped bass, catfish, tilapia and trout; 80 selling oysters and clams; and three selling ornamental fish. More than half of the state’s 2013 aquaculture sales, $41.5 million, were for mollusks, divided almost evenly between clam sales and oyster sales.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released findings from its 2013 Census of Aquaculture on Sept. 29. The census is the third that NASS has conducted; the previous census was conducted in 2005.

While the number of Virginia aquaculture operations in the commonwealth is down 19 percent from 2005, sales showed a 26 percent increase.

Virginia aquaculture is truly a bright spot for Virginia and showcases the diversity of agriculture in our state,” said Spencer Neale, director of commodity marketing forVirginia Farm Bureau Federation. “The growth in this particular segment is a trend that we have seen going back 20 years, when a similar census conducted by the state estimated aquaculture sales at a little over $18 million. There is no reason this growth trend should not continue, moving forward.”

Nationwide, the census found the total sales of aquaculture products in 2013 was $1.37 billion, an increase of 26 percent from 2005. Sales of food fish totaled $732 million, an increase of 9 percent from 2005. Crustacean sales totaled $85 million, up 59 percent, and mollusk sales totaled $329 million, an increase of 62 percent.

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