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Oyster Shells on the Move

PHOTO: Barges are carrying mined oyster shells to public oyster grounds in the James River, as well as in Mobjack Bay, the York River and off Tangier Island. Photo credit: Natural Resources Secretary Doug Domenech
PHOTO: Barges are carrying mined oyster shells to public oyster grounds in the James River, as well as in Mobjack Bay, the York River and off Tangier Island. Photo credit: Natural Resources Secretary Doug Domenech
July 9, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. - It's the largest oyster-replenishment project in Virginia history. Barges carrying more than a billion fossilized oyster shells are being floated down the James River so the shells can be planted on some of the historically best grounds for growing new oysters, to provide habitat for natural oyster larvae to attach and grow.

According to Natural Resources Secretary Doug Domenech, the hope is there will be a big payoff when the new oysters can be harvested in several years.

"Oysters in Virginia are about a $8 million business now, and in fact last year we harvested the most oysters since 1989," he said.

Domenech says the empty oyster shells, that were mined beneath the James River near Jamestown, could fill about 4000 dump trucks.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission estimates every $1 spent by the state to plant oyster shells yields $7 in economic benefits. But Domenech said there's another big reason to do it.

"Oysters filter the Bay, so there's an economic benefit to this and an environmental benefit," he declared.

According to the governor's office, oyster-replenishment funding has ranged from zero to as much as $1.3 million over the past two decades, but this is the first time it has surpassed the $2 million mark.


Alison Burns, Public News Service - VA