Virginia Continues to Lead in Cultured Clam and Oyster Production

The annual Virginia cultured shellfish assessment is available online in which a slight decline of 11% in 2015 oyster sales and a 25% reduction in clam harvests are reported, probably tied to the unusually brutal winter conditions last year. Even with these declines, Virginia remains the East Coast leader in cultured shellfish with well over $48.3M in sales. The survey conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) shows hard clam sales of $32.3 million and $16 million in oyster sales. The values are according to the 10th annual Virginia Shellfish Aquaculture Situation and Outlook Report. The survey and report provide an annual assessment of trends and projections for Virginia’s shellfish aquaculture industry. The 2015 results are drawn from 79 completed surveys returned to VIMS. Respondents included 15 clam growers, 66 intensive oyster growers, 7 extensive oyster growers, 5 shellfish hatcheries, and 9 growers who cultured both mollusks.

Highlights of the 2015 Virginia report include:

  • The total number of market oysters sold by Virginia growers was 35.4 million, a decrease from 2014 and less than the 57 million cultured market oysters growers had predicted.
  • Eight of the oyster survey responses indicated some sort of cooperative relationship to market.
  • Oyster prices were not broken down to market segment (i.e., primary wholesale, secondary wholesale, retail, etc.). The weighted average price per cultured oyster was estimated at $0.40, a $0.01 increase over the previous year.
  • The majority of Virginia’s production comes from a vertically integrated system with eight commercial shellfish hatcheries, of various scales, producing oyster seed and eyed larvae.
  • Good water quality remains a critical need for hatcheries. Water quality issues of unknown origin were reported in 2009 and 2011 and show an impact on production.
  • Research is ongoing to understand the water quality parameters that negatively impact consistent seed production.
  • The total number of market clams sold by Virginia growers was 184.7 million, which reflects a 24% decrease from the all-time high of 243 million sold in the previous year.
  • The average farm gate (dockside) price reported per market clam was $0.17; the same as the previous two years.
  • Clam seed production and sales remained stable for the last several years as well as the reported average price of clam seed. However, industry sources indicate much of the hatchery capacity is dedicated to producing seed for the hatchery owner’s own planting.

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