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Virginia Oyster Month: No. 1 in East Coast production

Courtesy Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Virginia is the largest oyster producer on the East Coast.

And now November is Virginia Oyster Month.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the designation Tuesday to recognize the industry’s importance and the hard work and dedication of the Commonwealth’s oyster producers. Also known as aquaculture, oyster farming is a booming industry in Virginia. Virginia’s wild and farmed oysters brings in an approximate annual value of $40 million.

“In addition to being one of the largest seafood producing states in the nation and first on America’s Atlantic Coast in seafood landings, Virginia is no. 1 on the East Coast in oyster production,” Matthew Lohr, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, said in a press release. “The Virginia oyster industry is one of the longest-standing industries in the state. From providing bountiful meals for Virginia’s first inhabitants, the industry thrives today with jobs for many Virginia families which helps to support local economies.”

A critical component of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, according to the press release, a single adult oyster can purge 50 gallons of water per day. Harvest pressure on wild stocks is reduced by gardening and farming oysters, which also increases the overall number of shellfish that help clean the water and serve as habitat for other marine life.

According to Joseph Guthrie, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia producers the best oysters in the world.

“The Eastern oyster, also known as the Virginia oyster, is not only a delicious food but also an important filter for the Chesapeake Bay. I encourage Virginia residents and visitors to show their appreciation of our oyster producers by enjoying fresh wild-caught and farm-raised Virginia oysters,” Guthrie said in the press release.

Eight different oyster regions are designated in Virginia with their own unique taste based on saltiness, buttery or creaminess and sweetness. The press release stated that oysters directly reflect the place and take their tastes from the location where they are cultured. The range of salinities from the briny Atlantic to the sweet water of the western shore of the upper Chesapeake Bay give the Commonwealth’s oysters a variety of tastes. The state’s tidal waters also influence the flavors of an oyster from the same location throughout the year.

Find your taste in Virginia’s oysters online.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.