Annual harvests of Bay oysters have increased from a low point of 50,018 bushels in 2003-04 to more than 745,000 bushels in 2012-13. That’s nearly a 15-fold increase, and rising.
The rebound is good news not only for seafood lovers and the watermen, packing houses, and restaurants that sell oysters; it’s good for the Chesapeake Bay. Oysters help filter and clear Bay waters and provide food and homes for an immense number of fish, crabs, and other marine critters. And while oyster can’t restore the Bay themselves, the Bay will not be restored without a robust and healthy oyster population.
Driving much of the rebound in oyster harvests is the Bay’s thriving oyster aquaculture industry,
especially in Virginia, where “oyster farming” and harvests from private leases account for more than 60% of the state’s annual oyster haul. A report this month from the Virginia Sea Grant Marine Extension Program provides the numbers.