Home Virginia looks to expand blue catfish fishing, processing in the state

Virginia looks to expand blue catfish fishing, processing in the state

Crystal Graham
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The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is currently accepting grant funding applications for projects that will help expand blue catfish fishing and processing in the state.

Applications for the blue catfish processing, flash freezing, and infrastructure grant program are being accepted through Nov. 20.

Introduced several decades ago, the blue catfish is an invasive species that has been documented in all of Virginia’s tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay.

“Reducing the population of this invasive species by turning it into a revenue stream for Virginia producers is a win-win,” said VDACS Commissioner Joseph Guthrie.

They eat shad, herring, striped bass, menhaden, clams and blue crabs and there is concern that large catfish populations pose a detrimental impact on the populations of these species.

“Blue catfish are an invasive species that are apex predators and are destroying some of Virginia’s unique aquatic ecosystems. They also happen to be a highly nutritious and delicious fish,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Matthew Lohr. “This grant funding incentivizes support for blue catfish processing, flash freezing, and infrastructure projects to make blue catfish a commercially viable enterprise for Virginia watermen and fish processors and add this seafood choice for consumers.”

The blue catfish processing, flash freezing, and infrastructure grant program awards reimbursable grants up to $250,000 to support infrastructure development projects that directly support local food production, enhance environmental sustainability, and demonstrate a broad community benefit.

Grant funds should be used primarily for capital expenditures.

Award announcements will be made no later than Dec. 31, 2023.

Awards will be made on a competitive basis based on the strength of a candidate’s application. Applicants must follow the AFID Infrastructure Program Application format.

Grant priority will be given to the following project types:

  • Projects that create processing, flash freezing, and infrastructure capacity in proximity to small-scale blue catfish watermen.
  • Processing facilities that are primarily locally owned, including packaging, freezing, and labeling facilities that are used for processing blue catfish.
  • Projects that involve or incorporate existing seafood processors and businesses.
  • Projects located in the localities of the Rural Coastal Virginia Community Enhancement Authority or in Planning District 23.

Additional information and application for this grant opportunity are available at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/agriculture-afid-infrastructure-grants-blue-catfish.shtml.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.