July 12, 2013

Big bucks for oysters

Gov. Bob McDonnell just announced that Virginia will undergo its largest oyster shell replenishment initiative with $2 million, instead of nothing or $1 million.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) is in charge of the replenishment program this year.According to the commission, each $1 spent in planting oyster shells yields an economic benefit of $7 in larger harvests and increased jobs.

About 800,000 bushels of fossilized oyster from a deposit 40 feet below the James River near Jamestown will be floated down river on barges to the lower James River, Mobjack Bay, the York River and off Tangier Island.
Oyster spat will attach to these empty oyster shells and will be untouched for several years as they grow to adulthood and then be harvested before two non-native diseases, Dermo and MSX, can kill them.
These shells join the 200,000 bushels of oyster shells from shucking houses that were dumped in May in known oyster grounds in the Rappahannock, Piankatank and Great Wicomico Rivers.

According to Williamsburg Yorktown Daily, "Virginia’s oyster harvest has increased 10 times over the past 10 years to about 250,000 bushels in 2012. The value of the harvest increased from about $575,000 to $8.26 million. The 2012 harvest was the largest since 1989, causing about $22 million in economic value according to a Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences formula."

Perhaps this will help Virginia achieve and maintain its pollution reduction goal--to meet 60 percent of its pollution reduction by 2017, and the remainder by 2025. The latest optimistic news from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is that we are on track.