There’s a lot of bad news in the world today. So let’s focus on some good news: the miraculous restoration of Virginia’s oyster population over the past few years.
Today, the McAuliffe administration announced that the Virginia oyster havest had increased 25% since the past year and more than twenty times its nadir a few years ago. This year, oystermen took over 500,000 bushels out of the Bay, with a market value of over $22 million.
In 2001, the oyster haul was only 20,000 bushels, almost nothing for a long-time industry. At that time, it seemed like the oyster industry was dead. There was even talk about introducing a foreign-bred oyster to try and stimulate the native species to action. (Call it the mail-order bride solution)
We didn’t do that. Instead, we left it in the hands of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission which used innovative methods, such as rotating harvest seasons and dropping artificial reefs into oyster breeding areas so the bivalves had a place to meet and mingle in a stress-free environment. (“oystermingle.com”?) The native populations survived somehow and began to breed again. Now it’s coming back to toward its peak populations from the Seventies and Eighties.
The oyster has a long population in Virginia. The earliest English settlers stayed alive by eating oysters, which they dug up from the banks of the James. It’s the closest thing we have to a native food source and it’s back.