RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced November is Virginia Oyster Month in the Commonwealth. The month of November is an excellent opportunity for visitors and Virginians to experience fresh wild-caught and farm-raised oysters from Virginia's eight different oyster regions, as well as participate in the numerous oyster festivals and events across the state. One of the best ways to enjoy the Chesapeake Bay’s wide array of restaurants, artisans, tours, and historical sites is through the Virginia Oyster Trail, which was officially launched in November 2015 and links local attractions in eight oyster regions across Virginia.
“Virginia is the Oyster Capital of the East Coast, boasting eight regions that each produce oysters with distinct and unique flavors based on the water in which they grow,” said Governor McAuliffe. “Oysters are a vital component to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and to Virginia, as they naturally clean the Chesapeake Bay and attract visitors from all over the world to the region. From the Urbanna Oyster Festival in the Middle Peninsula to the Merroir Terroir on the Eastern Shore, I encourage Virginians and visitors to explore the countless activities and attractions along Virginia’s Oyster Trail this November and discover why Virginia is for Oyster Lovers.”
“Virginia’s oyster industry is thriving, with a dockside value of nearly $34 million last year—a 52 percent increase from 2013,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore. “Virginia’s oyster industry is not only an important diversifier for the new Virginia economy, but a differentiator for Virginia as a travel destination. What lobster is to Maine, so is the oyster to Virginia. Travelers to Virginia can even eat oysters that grow in the same watershed as award-winning Virginia wine, proving the theory of ‘what grows together, goes together.’ There is no better place in the world for oyster lovers to visit than Virginia.”
Virginia oysters and the watermen who grow them hold a distinguished place in the Commonwealth’s rich coastal heritage and history. During John Smith’s travels to the Americas, he noted in his diary that oysters “lay as thick as stones” on the beds of the Chesapeake Bay. Unfortunately, disease nearly decimated the native oyster population in the 1950s. However, thanks to technological and scientific innovations, as well as dedicated oyster farmers and watermen, today’s oyster population is performing better than it has in nearly a generation. Virginia is now the number one producer of aquaculture oysters and clams, and all seafood, on the East Coast.
“More than 135 million oysters were planted by Virginia’s aquaculture industry in 2015, an increase of 27 percent over the previous year. Preliminary estimates indicate that the Commonwealth’s wild-caught harvest remained constant at its highest level in more than two and a half decades, cementing an increase of 50 percent over the past three years,” said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. “The continuing successes of our aquaculture industry and reef restoration efforts are good news for the Chesapeake Bay and the Commonwealth as a whole.”
Oyster tourism is also on the rise in Virginia, and has become an important industry as an agritourism asset for the Commonwealth. In November 2015, Governor McAuliffe announced the launch of the Virginia Oyster Trail, a major tourism development project connecting travelers to Virginia oyster purveyors, raw bars and restaurants, artisans, and the watermen culture throughout Coastal Virginia, the Northern Neck, Middle Peninsula and the Eastern Shore. As a result, Virginia has staked a claim as a top oyster destination in the country. Virginia’s share of voice in the oyster sphere—59 percent of the conversation on social media and in the news—dramatically outpaces competitor states, with New York trailing in second place at 17 percent. The Virginia Tourism Corporation also recently won a prestigious national award from U.S. Travel Association for its work promoting Virginia oysters and the Virginia Oyster Trail.
Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden added, “Virginia oysters have become one of the many reasons Virginia is such a unique tourist destination. Thanks to the high-quality oysters found in Virginia and the unforgettable events that incorporate this product, such as oyster festivals and shore-to-table dinners, the oyster industry has become an important factor in agritourism growth in the Commonwealth.”
For more information about Virginia oysters, trip ideas, and oyster festivals around the Commonwealth visit www.virginia.org/oysters.
For more information about the Virginia Oyster Trail, visit www.virginiaoystertrail.com.